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Posted by on Feb 22, 2014 in Atheism, Biblical Exegesis, Featured, God's Characteristics, Hell | 70 comments

The Incoherence of Satan

Many people, particularly fundamentalists, still believe in a real and actual Satan. Of course, to everyone else, this is completely incomprehensible. And here’s one reason for why, as John Loftus sets out in his book The End of Christianity (p. 100):

That the highest created being, known as Satan or the Devil, led an angelic rebellion against an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, omnipresent God…and expected to win. This makes Satan out to be suicidal, inexplicably evil, and dumber than a box of rocks. Yet he still defies God’s power by supposedly meddling in the world without God stopping him even though he could.

If we take God’s omnipotence as being infinite, then his power if even infinitely greater than Satan’s, whatever power Satan has (to see the interesting nature of infinity, read James Lindsay’s awesome Dot, Dot, Dot: Infinity Plus God Equals Folly). Satan would surely have realised God’s superiority and power and so any rebellion would logically be the most pointless pastime in conception. And if God allowed and allows it, then Satan is just a pawn in God’s plans, which means that God is executively managing evil. This and more I set out in my chapters on Satan and Hell in The Little Book of Unholy Questions. Whatever one’s conception of Satan, if at all real, there are massive problems. Which is why the evolution of such ideas has led to Satan being a mere metaphor for evil and wrongdoing: the temptation of man to err from the path of goodness.

Fundamentalists and literalists, of course, have to claim a more ontologically real character, and the Bible would certainly seem to defend this view.

It just doesn’t make a whole heap of sense. But then, what in the Bible really does?

  • Void L. Walker

    The whole concept of Satan never really made any sense to me, even when I was a Christian. God creates angels (when and why?), gives them free will (again….for his servants? That in itself is nonsensical), then when one of them “rebels” against God, She/he/it poops out Hell, custom built for Rebangels, and also reserves a chunk of it for humans. I wonder if Christians ever fucking think about how absurd and untenable this whole story is.

  • Luke Breuer

    You seem to be pretending that the is–ought gap does not exist, that there is no gap. I believe people have intellect and will, and that neither subsumes the other. While the intellect might know God correctly, the will may still desire in opposition from God. So, I view Satan as (i) real; (ii) desiring a different world than God. In particular, Satan wants a world where there are winners and losers, where the winners are the ones who are best at taking from others. This kind of world very much matches the one we have, now! You might say that Satan is trying to make this state of affairs permanent, and that there is a real logical possibility that he could. There is absolutely no guarantee, other than faith in God, that he could not win, perpetually. Plenty of dystopian fiction says he does; Blade Runner immediately comes to mind.

    Will there always be winners and losers, undergirded by a continual Nietzschean striving for power over others? A terrific amount of history looks like that, and I’m not sure it’s really easing up. This imposition of power doesn’t require physical violence. It can take the form of consumerism with ever-increasing wealth inequality.

    It strikes me that your post, Jonathan, betrays a very different conception of God than I have. Your conception of God seems to be of a God who compels, which may be required by your belief in CFW as the best description of free will. Satan doesn’t make much sense as anything other than a puppet under CFW. But what about under something not-CFW?

    • kraut2

      “While the intellect might know God correctly”

      Which one? Your own made up, any one made up by ten thousand Christian sects or any of the several thousand gods of non Abraham religions?

      Too many to choose from – and what if you choose to pray to the wrong one? Horrendous.

      “This is not a complete list, but aims to provide a comprehensible
      overview of the diversity among denominations of Christianity. As there
      are reported to be approximately 41,000 Christian denominations (figure
      includes overlap between countries),[3] many of which cannot be verified to be significant”

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_denominations

      • Luke Breuer

        Which one? Your own made up, any one made up by ten thousand Christian sects or any of the several thousand gods of non Abraham religions?

        Jonathan clearly has some sort of god in mind. That one. Or that set of gods.

        You can cite large numbers all that you want, but if one were to make a sort of ‘memetic’ genealogical tree of conceptions of Yahweh/Jesus/Holy Spirit, and note how many hold each point on this tree, you probably won’t find too many very different conceptions. You’ll find liberal, moderate, and conservative conceptions of God, which may vary quite a bit. But your citing “ten thousand” just doesn’t give one the right idea of what things really look like.

        The burden of proof is really on you to say that as much variety as you are indicating really exists. You’ll have to define some sort of ‘distance function’, to compute how different one person’s idea of God is from the next person’s. Then you need to do clustering. And from that, one could very likely construct the kind of tree I talk about, above.

        Too many to choose from – and what if you choose to pray to the wrong one? Horrendous.

        Not everyone holds to this. The amount of ‘horrendous’ could easily depend on (i) how accurate my perception of God is; (ii) whether my conception is getting better. Again, you’ve got to think about this rigorously, and not just throw around ideas you’ve heard and numbers you’ve come across.

        I also wrote about religious diversity, a la John Loftus’ “Religious Diversity Thesis” (RDVT).

        • Andy_Schueler

          But your citing “ten thousand” just doesn’t give one the right idea of what things really look like.

          Yup, the “correct” number would be somewhere in the billions – exactly as high as the number of believers is. At some point of similarity (which would necessarily be a subjective evaluation – there is no objective measure of similarity), you could of course reasonably assume that they just are subtly different instances of the same general idea. But no matter how you do that, you will end up with a huge number of different concepts, differing in what God actually is and how many Gods there are, what those Gods want us to do (or even IF they want us to do anything), if those Gods communicate with us and if so, how they communicate with us, if we can appease those gods and if so by what means and so and so forth.

          The burden of proof is really on you to say that as much variety as you are indicating really exists. You’ll have to define some sort of ‘distance function’, to compute how different one person’s idea of God is from the next person’s. Then you need to do clustering. And from that, one could very likely construct the kind of tree I talk about, above.

          That would require at least a few dozen dissertations of sociology, psychology, history and computer science or bioinformatics PhD students. And honestly – the subject is not interesting enough to spend that much time and effort on it. It´s more than sufficient to provide a dozen or so examples of God concepts being irreconcilably different wrt what “God” is, what God wants, how God communicates etc.pp. as a proof of principle – and this has been done over and over again.

          Not everyone holds to this. The amount of ‘horrendous’ could easily depend on (i) how accurate my perception of God is; (ii) whether my conception is getting better.

          Irrelevant. If there were a method to find out whether your conception of “God” is getting better – there would be no need for anyone to have a discussion like this one in the first place.

          • Luke Breuer

            Yup, the “correct” number would be somewhere in the billions – exactly as high as the number of believers is.

            Relevance? Will any two people who have met Obama describe him in 100% the same way?

            But no matter how you do that, you will end up with a huge number of different concepts,

            I explain a motivating reason for this in my comment about religious diversity:

            If there is any realm of life where one’s residual misconceptions or illogical reasoning would show up, it would probably be in religious experiences and thinking of what “the greatest possible being” (a) is like; (b) would do. It seems to me that religious thinking and experience are the most ‘holistic’ activities in which one can engage, and thus the activities least protected from e.g. compartmentalization and cognitive dissonance.

            Irrelevant. If there were a method to find out whether your conception of “God” is getting better – there would be no need for anyone to have a discussion like this one in the first place.

            The method is simple: look at what kind of force various religious folks are applying to the world. For some it will be zero. For others, they will be trying to change the world in some direction. Is that a good direction? Alternatively, you could focus on the triad of Mt 5:43-48, Jn 13:34-35, Jn 17:20-23, which Francis Schaeffer’s The Mark of a Christian nicely explains.

            Many of us are trying to change the world, not just fit in. Well, is the direction of that change ‘good’? You are, of course, supposed to use your personal judgment of ‘good’, just like scientists use their personal judgments of ‘good’ (see Polanyi’s Personal Knowledge).

          • Andy_Schueler

            I explain a motivating reason for this in my comment about religious diversity:

            If there is any realm of life where one’s residual misconceptions or illogical reasoning would show up, it would probably be in religious experiences and thinking of what “the greatest possible being” (a) is like; (b) would do. It seems to me that religious thinking and experience are the most ‘holistic’ activities in which one can engage, and thus the activities least protected from e.g. compartmentalization and cognitive dissonance.

            This is the secular explanation for why different cultures and individuals come up with different concepts of what Gods / spirits and other religious entitites are like. If one of the religions that involve personal deity-like beings were true, this diversity would not be required.

            The method is simple: look at what kind of force various religious folks are applying to the world. For some it will be zero. For others, they will be trying to change the world in some direction. Is that a good direction?

            1. A God exists which happens to be [insert God here]
            2. People who believe in the God mentioned in 1 change the world in a direction that is deemed to be “good” by them.
            3. ?
            4. From 1-3 follows that the God mentioned in point 1 exists and that the people in point 2 have gotten a better concept of what this God is like.

            Until you can fill in point three with something that logically connects 1+2 and 4, this is not a valid argument.

          • Luke Breuer

            This is the secular explanation for why different cultures and individuals come up with different concepts of what Gods / spirits and other religious entitites are like. If one of the religions that involve personal deity-like beings were true, this diversity would not be required.

            Is it? Secularists often use the word ‘hallucination’ when it comes to religious experiences. If, instead, religious experiences were some function of one’s entire belief system, they could be truth-directed. And yet, I have never come across a secular person who thought that religious experiences could be truth-directed. Have I not looked enough?

            I don’t necessarily disagree with your “not be required” for all religions, but for a deity who (a) wants to allow wide latitude in beliefs; (b) wants people to fully understand those beliefs, I think it is required! I believe God cares about all of our internal state, and wants it healed, coherent, whole, and ever-growing.

            Until you can fill in point three with something that logically connects 1+2 and 4, this is not a valid argument.

            This seems tantamount to challenging me to prove the connectivity of (i) beliefs about God to (ii) actions made in reality. Is this the case?

          • Andy_Schueler

            Is it? Secularists often use the word ‘hallucination’ when it comes to religious experiences.

            Afaict, they use it extremely rarely, which makes sense because the religious experiences that could possibly be hallucinations or connected to hallucinations are extremely rare.

            If, instead, religious experiences were some function of one’s entire belief system, they could be truth-directed. And yet, I have never come across a secular person who thought that religious experiences could be truth-directed. Have I not looked enough?

            I have no idea what a “truth-directed experience” is supposed to be and I also don´t understand what the “function of one’s entire belief system” is supposed to mean.

            I don’t necessarily disagree with your “not be required” for allreligions, but for a deity who (a) wants to allow wide latitude in beliefs; (b) wants people to fully understand those beliefs, I think it is required!

            It always ends up with God wanting exactly what we would observe if all religions were man-made, but no believer anticipating that before we made those observations…. ;-)

            This seems tantamount to challenging me to prove the connectivity of (i) beliefs about God to (ii) actions made in reality. Is this the case?

            Of course. You claimed that you have a method which can be used to evaluate whether a concept of God is better than a different concept of God. And the data used by the method you propose is the impact that humans who believe in said God have on other humans. There is no obvious logical connection between the two – if one exists, you have to spell it out.

          • Luke Breuer

            Afaict, they use it extremely rarely

            Correction: much of my exposure is to the types of people who comment on blogs like this and Randal Rauser’s, and those who participate in long discussions on forums. That probably isn’t a very good sampling. That being said, I do see the term ‘hallucination’ used a lot in those domains.

            I have no idea what a “truth-directed experience” is supposed to be and I also don´t understand what the “function of one’s entire belief system” is supposed to mean.

            Recall the simplistic evidentialist epistemology based on #1 cogito; #2 my 5 sense are sufficiently reliable. See my Phil.SE question, “I trust my senses” — Why does this tend to be restricted to the external senses? For an input in the brain to be ‘truth-directed’, we must be able to predict and probably control it with ever-increasing accuracy. This is most commonly spoken of in terms of the five external-facing senses.

            As to beliefs, see my answer to the Phil.SE question The reality of self, where I lay out what I consider ‘beliefs’ and talk about error in them.

            “function of one’s entire belief system” means output from a person’s brain which depends on all of one’s held beliefs, and not just some of them. This output can be detectable by other people via actions and spoken words.

            It always ends up with God wanting exactly what we would observe if all religions were man-made, but no believer anticipating that before we made those observations…. ;-)

            I’ve been getting some push-back from people online about my interpretation of the triad, Mt 7:1-5, Mt 23:1-4, and Gal 6:1-5. Here is one of my extended comments on the matter. Suppose that the Bible is right in this particular triad, and many people today don’t seem to accept it. Ought we expect that, on “all religions were man-made”? I’m trying to get a sense of what you (a) would accept; (b) would not accept, on “all religions were man-made”. The demarcation line is not at all clear to me.

            There is no obvious logical connection between the two – if one exists, you have to spell it out.

            Do you realize that this “no obvious logical connection” is a much more fundamental problem? From Evan Fales’ Divine Intervention: Metaphysical and Epistemological Puzzles:

                According to Swinburne, the scientific search for a natural law is a search for the “simplest formula from which the past [observational] results can be deduced.” Recognizing the under-determination of theory by data, Swinburne appeals to a criterion of simplicity to cull nomological gold from the dross of alternative generalizations that meet the minimum standard of consistency with the data.
                Here I shall set aside the quarrel that laws are often inconsistent with the data because (some of) the data are bad data. But we cannot ignore the question of what justifies invoking simplicity as a criterion (even supposing we had—which we do not—an objective measure of simplicity). If this is a merely pragmatic standard—a matter of scientific procedure grounded in convenience or the need to make theorizing a tractable undertaking—then it rests on a justification that can have no ontological import. But Swinburne only tells us that this is how scientists proceed, so we are left to wonder why he thinks he has provided the kind of analysis of the concept of natural law required for the task at hand. (18)

            This is at least related to the difference between (i) scientific realism and (ii) scientific instrumentalism. This problem likely spawned model-dependent realism, which I don’t think is actually a new development at all—Hawking and Mlodinow were probably just ignorant of the relevant philosophy of science, or wanted to coin a new term to give it scientific respectability (a sad state of affairs).

            Therefore, I’m not sure there is any difference between:

                 (1) God is real because my God-thoughts lead to better navigation through reality.

                 (2) Electrons are real because my electron-thoughts lead to better navigation through reality.

            Why consider electrons ‘real’ instead of a convenient mental formulation? If model choice is largely done via Ockham’s razor, that is ontologically damaging, if not ontologically disastrous.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Correction: much of my exposure is to the types of people who comment on blogs like this and Randal Rauser’s, and those who participate in long discussions on forums. That probably isn’t a very good sampling. That being said, I do see the term ‘hallucination’ used a lot in those domains.

            Alright. My point was – no matter how many instances there are of non-religious people trying to explain religious experiences in terms of hallucinations, it must be a vanishingly small number of instances compared to the number of religious experiences there are. The overwhelming majority (very close to 100%) of religious experiences are in no way similar to a hallucination (speaking in tongues is not a hallucination-like, becoming “born again” is not hallucination-like, a feeling of “inner peace” is not hallucination-like and so on and so forth).

            Recall the simplistic evidentialist epistemology based on #1 cogito; #2 my 5 sense are sufficiently reliable. See my Phil.SE question, “I trust my senses” — Why does this tend to be restricted to the external senses? For an input in the brain to be ‘truth-directed’, we must be able to predict and probably control it with ever-increasing accuracy. This is most commonly spoken of in terms of the five external-facing senses.

            I still have no idea what you are talking about. What would be an example of a “truth-directed input” and why does “predict and probably control it with ever-increasing accuracy” mean that said input is “truth-directed”? I also don´t see the relevance of the “simplistic evidentialist epistemology”.

            I’ve been getting some push-back from people online about my interpretation of the triad, Mt 7:1-5, Mt 23:1-4, and Gal 6:1-5. Here is one of my extended comments on the matter. Suppose that the Bible is right in this particular triad, and many people today don’t seem to accept it. Ought we expect that, on “all religions were man-made”? I’m trying to get a sense of what you (a) would accept; (b) would not accept, on “all religions were man-made”. The demarcation line is not at all clear to me.

            If all religions are man-made, then religious diversity is expected to a comparable degree as there are differences for every other cultural phenomenon other than religion. And from this it naturally follows that for every religious claim, plenty of people will disagree with it.

            Therefore, I’m not sure there is any difference between:

            (1) God is real because my God-thoughts lead to better navigation through reality.

            (2) Electrons are real because my electron-thoughts lead to better navigation through reality.

            Assume for the sake of the argument that there is no meaningful difference. We both have at least a vague idea of what “better navigation through reality” means when it comes to the concept of an electron. And we both also have at least a vague idea of why no one who studies the concept would suggest that it is superfluous.

            When it comes to your God concept however, I have no idea what “better” means. How is your particular God concept “better” than no God concept in a similar way that our current electron concept is better than no electron concept?

          • Luke Breuer

            Alright. My point was – no matter how many instances there are of non-religious people trying to explain religious experiences in terms of hallucinations, it must be a vanishingly small number of instances compared to the number of religious experiences there are.

            Ehh, I think you’re nit-picking. The idea of ‘brain nonsense’ that is a component of [some versions of] ‘hallucination’ attaches nicely to the other things you describe. And we can be technical and replace ‘nonsense’ with ‘misfirings’. It doesn’t really matter, as long as the explanation is that whatever the thing is, it cannot be truth-directed. That is, it cannot help us discover what is true. And yes, you can replace “true” → “a better approximation of reality than what we had before”. And you can replace “reality” → “what my consciousness will detect”.

            I still have no idea what you are talking about. What would be an example of a “truth-directed input” and why does “predict and probably control it with ever-increasing accuracy” mean that said input is “truth-directed”? I also don´t see the relevance of the “simplistic evidentialist epistemology”.

            It has to do with what can have truth value. Can only things detectable by your five external-facing senses have truth value? Or can things detectable by all of the inputs to your consciousness have truth-value? The issue here is epistemology and ontology. An example of a contentious “truth-directed input” is the sensus divinitatis.

            If you have no idea what I’m talking about, then perhaps I have grossly misinterpreted your original claims. Perhaps you would like to possibly reformulate and number them?

            If all religions are man-made, then religious diversity is expected to a comparable degree as there are differences for every other cultural phenomenon other than religion.

            This is a just-so story unless it has predictive or very compact explanatory power. Has either been shown? As to what connotes ‘very compact’ or ‘simple’, that is a very complex issue (heh). I’m not sure that citing evolution is a ‘simple’ explanation. Again, can you draw this line of demarcation between (a) what you would expect to see, given your explanation; (b) what you would not expect to see, given your explanation? The finer this line of demarcation, the more you’re claiming. If you just put outrageous things (e.g. the stars arranging to say Genesis 1:1 in ancient Hebrew) in (b), then our conversation is probably over on this tangent.

            When it comes to your God concept however, I have no idea what “better” means. How is your particular God concept “better” than no God concept in a similar way that our current electron concept is better than no electron concept?

            If I am more inclined to hold beliefs closer to reality based on my trust of Mt 7:1-5, Mt 23:1-4, and Gal 6:1-5, and I attribute that trust in part due to belief in God, then I think this ‘better’ can be easily demonstrated. Now if you dispute the “in part due to”, I claim that you can dispute it not only when I point to 0.001% of the Bible, but 0.1%, 1%, and 100%. You can always ‘shear’ fact-claims of the Bible that are testable by any and all of the inputs to our consciousnesses, from the claim that a personal deity exists. Just like I could take my concept of my wife as a person, and smash it into a set of brute facts that predict her actions equally as well as the person-model.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Ehh, I think you’re nit-picking. The idea of ‘brain nonsense’ that is a component of [some versions of] ‘hallucination’ attaches nicely to the other things you describe. And we can be technical and replace ‘nonsense’ with ‘misfirings’. It doesn’t really matter, as long as the explanation is that whatever the thing is, it cannot be truth-directed. That is, it cannot help us discoverwhat is true. And yes, you can replace “true” → “a better approximation of reality than what we had before”. And you can replace “reality” → “what my consciousness will detect”.

            I still don´t see your concept of “truth-directed” as a meaningful one and I also don´t think it is nitpicking to point out that the overwhelming majority of religious experiences have nothing in common with hallucinations.

            It has to do with what can have truth value. Can only things detectable by your five external-facing senses have truth value?

            What is a “truth-value” supposed to be?

            The issue here is epistemology and ontology. An example of a contentious “truth-directed input” is the sensus divinitatis.

            What would be an example “input” to such a “sensus divinitatis”?

            This is a just-so story unless it has predictive or very compact explanatory power.

            Good, I´ll hold your God concept to the same standard that you demand then.

            Again, can you draw this line of demarcation between (a) what you would expect to see, given your explanation; (b) what you would not expect to see, given your explanation?

            We´ve already been there. I gave you a long list, you replied by pointing out “doesn´t prove that it´s not all just some advanced aliens” or something along that line and I replied that I don´t see any meaningful difference between Gods and aliens as long as the aliens are advanced enough.

            If I am more inclined to hold beliefs closer to reality based on my trust ofMt 7:1-5, Mt 23:1-4, and Gal 6:1-5, and I attribute that trust in part due to belief in God, then I think this ‘better’ can be easily demonstrated.

            What is the number of demonstrably false beliefs that you had in the past and which you plausible would not have had because you trusted “God” (you said you had been a creationist for example, that alone probably involves at least a few dozen demonstrably false beliefs) and what is the number of demonstrably true beliefs that you are having right now which you plausibly would not have if you did not trust “God”?

          • Luke Breuer

            I still don´t see your concept of “truth-directed” as a meaningful one

            Ok, let’s go back to “I trust my senses” — Why does this tend to be restricted to the external senses?—do you understand what “My senses are sufficiently reliable” means? Do you understand the role it plays in the evidentialist epistemology I describe?

            and I also don´t think it is nitpicking to point out that the overwhelming majority of religious experiences have nothing in common with hallucinations.

            It is nitpicking because I was picking out “brain nonsense” as the crucial aspect.

            What is a “truth-value” supposed to be?

            People who say “meaning is an illusion” say that “meaning” has no truth-value. Andy, are you really ignorant of this stuff? From our other conversations, I thought you’d be, well, conversant in the idea of “truth-directed” and “having a truth-value”. Perhaps you know these under different terms?

            What would be an example “input” to such a “sensus divinitatis”?

            The example I gave you a while ago, where a friend of mine got a sudden, strong urge to run to a restaurant he hated, where the result was that he likely saved a person’s life by just being in the right place to break a fall. I reject the idea that it was just a spurious signal in his brain (“brain nonsense”, in fact!).

            Good, I´ll hold your God concept to the same standard that you demand then.

            Well, the definition of ‘very compact’ is greatly debated, but in general, I want you to hold me to this standard. I don’t want to hold to a Gnostic religion that only wants a coherent system of beliefs. The insane person has the most coherent belief system of all. I believe Christianity contacts reality, in deep ways. Now, I can only describe a few of them, but they are enough to have me hoping that there is more.

            We´ve already been there. I gave you a long list, you replied by pointing out “doesn´t prove that it´s not all just some advanced aliens” or something along that line and I replied that I don´t see any meaningful difference between Gods and aliens as long as the aliens are advanced enough.

            Did we talk about is vs. ought, and whether your desires would be changed one iota by seeing awesome technological phenomena? Surely more is-data would change how you satisfy your desires, but would you consider changing your desires, even the slightest? Suppose, just hypothetically, that it is revealed to you that you think of yourself as a full person, and some subset of people as closer to objects, such that they are less valuable as persons, less deserving of nice things/justice/whatever. If this were to be made clear to you, would you change how you behave so that all people are just as ‘human’, with all that entails, as you?

            What is the number of demonstrably false beliefs that you had in the past and which you plausible would not have had because you trusted “God” (you said you had been a creationist for example, that alone probably involves at least a few dozen demonstrably false beliefs) and what is the number of demonstrably true beliefs that you are having right now which you plausibly would not have if you did not trust “God”?

            The first half of your question seems a bit weird and I’m not sure you got all the positives/negatives right; I interpret it thusly: “What false beliefs did you hold in the past, that were incoherent with your present understanding of God, which you would tell your past self about if you had the chance?” A huge one is that I am built wrong as a person, that something in my brain is wrong and that other people are right to think of me as less of a person. I would tell myself that this is a form of metaphysical tyranny, meant to insulate people from the reality that their way of thinking is not the only good way of thinking. I would tell myself that a subset of people are creating the world in their own image, and that this is evil. The result of this is always to make some people not belong (well, the whole continuum of “don’t quite fit” to “you don’t belong here at all”). No, no, no: this world has been created with a place for everyone, with no person being more important or more valuable than any other person. There need be no “us vs. them”. This is all a degenerate way of living. There is a better way. It does, however, require you to deny yourself—to deny that your plan for saving the world is actually a good one. You need others’ input. Everyone’s input.

            If I did not trust God, I probably wouldn’t believe the above so strongly. I’d still help others, but I wouldn’t have any reason to believe that a world can exist where everyone is an equal citizen. Looking at history and today, that seems like a pipe dream. Power is always centralized, and that is how it will always be. Too many people just aren’t able to bear the equal power distribution which characterizes proper, non-violent anarchy. So we have to do the best we can to take care of people who just aren’t intelligent enough, willing enough, and/or wise enough to fully take care of themselves.

            You asked for numbers; I don’t see how I can be expected to answer that. So instead, I gave you two examples.

          • Andy_Schueler

            do you understand what “My senses are sufficiently reliable” means? Do you understand the role it plays in the evidentialist epistemology I describe?

            Do you by “truth-directed sense” mean, that those senses can pick up something that exists in the external world, outside of your imagination? If not, I still have no idea what you mean.
            If that is what you mean, then I don´t understand your problem – we have more than five senses, not all of those are “external”, and no one doubts that the “internal” ones (e.g. nociception / sensing pain) are “truth-directed”, assuming that I understood what you mean by “truth-directed”.

            The example I gave you a while ago, where a friend of mine got a sudden, strong urge to run to a restaurant he hated, where the result was that he likely saved a person’s life by just being in the right place to break a fall. I reject the idea that it was just a spurious signal in his brain (“brain nonsense”, in fact!).

            I just looked up “sensus divinitatis” to check that I´m not mistaken about what it means, and here´s Calvin´s definition:
            “That there exists in the human mind and indeed by natural instinct, some sense of Deity [sensus divinitatis], we hold to be beyond dispute, since God himself, to prevent any man from pretending ignorance, has endued all men with some idea of his Godhead…. …this is not a doctrine which is first learned at school, but one as to which every man is, from the womb, his own master; one which nature herself allows no individual to forget.”
            – How is the example you give here an input to a “sensus divinitatis”?

            Did we talk about is vs. ought, and whether your desires would be changed one iota by seeing awesome technological phenomena? Surely more is-data would change how you satisfy your desires, but would you consider changing your desires, even the slightest?

            Is the point here supposed to be “yes, my God is indeed completely and utterly indistinguishable from an imaginary one, but if he were not, it would make no difference for you, at least wrt what you desire”?
            I cannot parse it any other way, and my reply would be – I have absolutely no idea what I would or would not do / want / believe, if I started interacting with a God, no idea whatsoever. And neither do you. We are talking about beings that are by definition so wise, knowledgeable and powerful that they are either completely indistinguishable from gods for us or actually are gods – if we could realistically imagine interactions with such beings before we have ever encoutered one, then their actual knowledge, wisdom, power etc. are constrained by whatever we can imagine about them without having met them, which just means in other words that they wouldn´t be “gods” to begin with (at least not for any meaningful sense of the word “god”).
            Short answer: I find the notion that meeting a God or even having a relationship with a God would not change you to be utterly absurd, how it would change you however is something that neither I nor you nor anyone else can say.

            Suppose, just hypothetically, that it is revealed to you that you think of yourself as a full person, and some subset of people as closer to objects, such that they are less valuable as persons, less deserving of nice things/justice/whatever. If this were to be made clear to you, would you change how you behave so that all people are just as ‘human’, with all that entails, as you?

            Dude, everybody who overcame a subset of their prejudices against others, or became aware of a subset of the ways in which (s)he was privileged over others, changes in some way as a reaction to that, To some degree, that happens to virtually everyone who lives long enough. This does affect my behaviour in some ways every time I figure a subset of this out myself, or are being made aware of it through others – so yes, I do change how I behave when this is “revealed” to me.

            If I did not trust God, I probably wouldn’t believe the above so strongly. I’d still help others, but I wouldn’t have any reason to believe that a world can exist where everyone is an equal citizen. Looking at history and today, that seems like a pipe dream. Power is always centralized, and that is how it will always be. Too many people just aren’t able to bear the equal power distribution which characterizes proper, non-violent anarchy. So we have to do the best we can to take care of people who just aren’t intelligent enough, willing enough, and/or wise enough to fully take care of themselves.

            You were talking about “better navigating reality”. And as I said, I know what that means when you talk about a model of an electron. I don´t know what “better” is supposed to mean -based on what you describe here, your God model leads you to trust that a specific future is possible, a future that you find rather implausible. That doesn´t sound like “navigating reality better”.

          • Luke Breuer

            Do you by “truth-directed sense” mean, that those senses can pick up something that exists in the external world, outside of your imagination?

            See, here you threaten to imply that if it exists only in my brain (“the external internal world”), it is just imagination? Outside = real, inside = not-real. Or perhaps you didn’t mean this? I’d be interested in your take on The Unreliability of Naive Introspection. If what’s inside the brain is “just imagination” (which you may not hold), then this paper would seem to be largely nonsensical.

            If that is what you mean, then I don´t understand your problem – we have more than five senses, not all of those are “external”, and no one doubts that the “internal” ones (e.g. nociception / sensing pain) are “truth-directed”, assuming that I understood what you mean by “truth-directed”.

            Are our emotions truth-directed (or can they be)? They’re another kind of input to our consciousness.

            - How is the example you give here an input to a “sensus divinitatis”?

            Ostensibly, God can actually communicate to us, and the sensus divinitatis would be one such way. It’s not clear to me that this is a distinct sense, although it could be a very holistic one. Strictly speaking, my friend felt a strong compulsion to do something extremely random, and it ended up saving a life. Combine this with other positive examples, and not enough negative examples, and you have indication of some sort of external “coordinating entity” which is guiding him to help other people. This is one of the very things one might expect a deity to do—at least, I would expect this.

            Note again, this friend of mine is an atheist. He says he prefers not to believe in any of this stuff, but that he has learned that if he ignores the various inputs to his brain that constitute this stuff, bad stuff happens, including people dying whom he might have been able to save if he had paid more attention. The reason this doesn’t sound crazy is that he succeeded in saving the life of a friend by detecting a lethal health condition early enough. For another friend of his, he detected ‘wrongness’ but didn’t make it high enough priority, and the friend died tragically. You are welcome to accuse this friend of making patterns out of nothing, but those patterns have been awfully useful to him. So…

            Is the point here supposed to be “yes, [1] my God is indeed completely and utterly indistinguishable from an imaginary one, but if he were not, [2] it would make no difference for you, at least wrt what you desire”?

            Heh, but no to [1] and yes to [2]. This isn’t a strong “yes”; it’s just a possibility that I’m exploring. I have a rough idea as to how ideas about what reality is are changed in people, but little idea as to how ideas about what reality ought to be are changed in people. I don’t even know whether we have a good breakdown of all the inputs to the consciousness; ‘emotion’ is quite a vague term (I just started reading Descartes’ Error and have What Emotions Really Are checked out). There’s intuition, which Polanyi discusses in-depth in Personal Knowledge. This stuff is pretty tricky.

            I cannot parse it any other way, and my reply would be – I have absolutely no idea what I would or would not do / want / believe, if I started interacting with a God, no idea whatsoever. And neither do you. We are talking about beings that are by definition so wise, knowledgeable and powerful that they are either completely indistinguishable from gods for us or actually are gods – if we could realistically imagine interactions with such beings before we have ever encoutered one, then their actual knowledge, wisdom, power etc. are constrained by whatever we can imagine about them without having met them, which just means in other words that they wouldn´t be “gods” to begin with (at least not for any meaningful sense of the word “god”).

            I actually like your “absolutely no idea” response; it reminds me of Jonathan’s How can we mere mortals state what God SHOULD do? and my somewhat confusing comment, which I end:

            (1) research into objective reality
            (2) research into objective morality.
            (3) thinking about what really is can be useful
            (8) What would an omni-* deity do to maximize human thriving?

            Indeed, there exists a website called LessWrong, with the subtitle: “A community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality.” What I propose is that thinking about (3) and (8) is valid when we do it ‘only a little bit’. That is, we only go a little ahead of our current knowledge of the state of things. It is in this kind of environment that (3) has proven to work toward the end of (1). Likewise, I claim that (8) can aid (2).

            I only slightly disagree with your “absolutely no idea“: I think we actually can do a bit of (8), and not zero (8). Folks like The Thinker have, in my opinion, way too much confident in their imagination of what an omni-being would do; I call this “waving the omni-wand”.

            My favorite way to illustration the “deny yourself” bit in “deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me” is this section of Systemantics. Everyone has a system by which the world would be made a better place. Or at least a fragment of a system. “If everyone would just do this!” How do we ‘loosen up’ our ideas of how the world works so that we don’t work out of hubris? How do we then try to envision better and better worlds, and what steps are required to get there? It seems that somewhere in all this, there is something that would qualify as my “only go a little ahead”.

            Short answer: I find the notion that meeting a God or even having a relationship with a God would not change you to be utterly absurd, how it would change you however is something that neither I nor you nor anyone else can say.

            Can you imagine closing off your mind to the influence of certain people? Let’s say some person wants things that are just diametrically opposed to what you want. Can you see this as thwarting possible relationship with him? Now, do we really need ‘diametrically opposed’ for there to still be enough blocks to a successful relationship?

            Recall that the 1 Cor 13:5, Mt 20:20-28, etc. model of God has him not forcing himself on people. This means if they wouldn’t want to be in relationship with such a being, God will by and large stay away. If, on the other hand, you are straining toward (1) and (2) and (8)-ish, above, I could see God ‘showing up’ somehow, to aid the process. But how would you even detect him showing up? I’m working on an answer to that. Part of that is reading Evan Fales’ Divine Intervention: Metaphysical and Epistemological Puzzles.

            Dude, everybody who overcame a subset of their prejudices against others, or became aware of a subset of the ways in which (s)he was privileged over others, changes in some way as a reaction to that,

            Ahh, but some people don’t “overcome a subset of their prejudices”; they harden in those prejudices, instead. What sends them one way, vs. the other?

            You were talking about “better navigating reality”. And as I said, I know what that means when you talk about a model of an electron. I don´t know what “better” is supposed to mean -based on what you describe here, your God model leads you to trust that a specific future is possible, a future that you find rather implausible. That doesn´t sound like “navigating reality better”.

            It is “navigating reality better” if my religious doings enable me to be part of making less probable things happen regardless. That is the true test. What other test is there? What other test makes sense?

          • Andy_Schueler

            Ostensibly, God can actually communicate to us, and the sensus divinitatis would be one such way. It’s not clear to me that this is a distinct sense, although it could be a very holistic one. Strictly speaking, my friend felt a strong compulsion to do something extremely random, and it ended up saving a life. Combine this with other positive examples, and not enough negative examples, and you have indication of some sort of external “coordinating entity” which is guiding him to help other people. This is one of the very things one might expect a deity to do—at least, I would expect this.

            Note again, this friend of mine is an atheist. He says he prefers not to believe in any of this stuff, but that he has learned that if he ignores the various inputs to his brain that constitute this stuff, bad stuff happens,

            That doesn´t seem to have anything to do with a “sensus divinitatis”. A sensus divinitatis is defined as a sense of God, something that enables you to sense that a god is there and sense what this god is like (at least his most important qualities) – if there is one, an atheists could not possibly use it and remain an atheist, that would make as much sense as saying that “John, doesn´t believe in pain,he experiences pain sometimes and reacts to those experiences, but he prefers to believe that he doesn´t experience pain while he experiences pain”.

            I actually like your “absolutely no idea” response; it reminds me of Jonathan’s How can we mere mortals state what God SHOULD do? and my somewhat confusing comment, which I end:

            (1) research into objective reality
            (2) research into objective morality.
            (3) thinking about what really is can be useful
            (8) What would an omni-* deity do to maximize human thriving?

            Indeed, there exists a website called LessWrong, with the subtitle: “A community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality.” What I propose is that thinking about (3) and (8) is valid when we do it ‘only a little bit’. That is, we only go a little ahead of our current knowledge of the state of things. It is in this kind of environment that (3) has proven to work toward the end of (1). Likewise, I claim that (8) can aid (2).

            Every moral judgment you make considers something that you deem to be morally better than either the status quo or an imagined alternative consequence, moral reasoning by definition entails such evaluations. “What would an omni-* deity do to…?” is just a way of fooling yourself by doing moral reasoning exactly like everyone else does it but not calling the outcome “what I find the morally best choice” but rather “what god would want”. This has the ugly tendency of making people way too confident that their moral judgments are right. People are already annoyingly stubborn about moral judgments without that, but if people manage to fool themselves into believing that their moral judgments are not actually their moral judgments but rather the moral judgments of some allmighty god, then how dare you disagree with them GOD?!.

            Can you imagine closing off your mind to the influence of certain people? Let’s say some person wants things that are just diametrically opposed to what you want. Can you see this as thwarting possible relationship with him?

            No, that is a contradiction – I can´t even know that I want things that are diametrically opposed (or just somewhat different) from what this person wants without having some kind of relationship with this person in the first place – I could end the relationship after finding that out but “thwarting a possible relationship” would be a contradiction.

            Recall that the 1 Cor 13:5, Mt 20:20-28, etc. model of God has him not forcing himself on people. This means if they wouldn’t want to be in relationship with such a being, God will by and large stay away. If, on the other hand, you are straining toward (1) and (2) and (8)-ish, above, I could see God ‘showing up’ somehow,

            But you do want to be in a relationship with the god you believe in. Still he doesn´t “show up”, because you want what he wants, but you don´t “want it enough”, right? And no matter how much more you will “want what he wants”, nothing will ever be enough, god will not “show up” for you just like no god ever “showed up” for anyone else. And you will keep telling yourself that it´s all your fault for not desiring or believing exactly what you should desire and believe and if only you could change even more to finally reach this unknown standard when god will finally deem you worthy and show up…. And that´s how a false idea can survive forever.

            Ahh, but some people don’t “overcome a subset of their prejudices”; they harden in those prejudices, instead. What sends them one way, vs. the other?

            Cognitive dissonance.

            It is “navigating reality better” if my religious doings enable me to be part of making less probable things happen regardless.

            But you said you would do what you do anyway, you just would not find a certain future to be likely.

            That is the true test. What other test is there? What other test makes sense?

            This wouldn´t be a test of your religious beliefs, this would be a test if certain actions (which don´t involve deities or interactions with them) lead to certain outcomes (which also don´t involve deities or interactions with them) – it´s a social experiment you propose, “God” is an appendage that could be removed from the experiment without making any difference.

          • Luke Breuer

            That doesn´t seem to have anything to do with a “sensus divinitatis”. A sensus divinitatis is defined as a sense of God, something that enables you to sense that a god is there and sense what this god is like (at least his most important qualities) – if there is one, an atheists could not possibly use it and remain an atheist, that would make as much sense as saying that “John, doesn´t believe in pain,he experiences pain sometimes and reacts to those experiences, but he prefers to believe that he doesn´t experience pain while he experiences pain”.

            I think God exposes him to people in more ways than you allow for, in ways which allow for (i) misinterpretation; (ii) vague impressions that don’t rise to “oh, that’s an deity!” I’ve talked to my friend about specifically these things, and while he thinks there might be moral agents in what he calls “the metaphysical realm”, he’s extremely reticent to think of there being anything or anyone like Yahweh there. I don’t see why this is a problem; why must the sensus divinitatis immediately show up as a full-fledged conception of Yahweh? That actually doesn’t make sense; human understanding marches forward slowly, not in leaps and bounds.

            “What would an omni-* deity do to…?” is just a way of fooling yourself by doing moral reasoning exactly like everyone else does it but not calling the outcome “what I find the morally best choice” but rather “what god would want”.

            A few posts above I linked Creating God in one’s own image, although not by name. I don’t find your argument convincing, but perhaps my argument requires the sensus divinitatis? The way I model things, to even be open to God correcting our ideas about (a) is; (b) ought, we have to be properly humble. This means having the right confidence in our various beliefs. It’s remarkably close to the “sufficient evidence” requirement, although it’s (i) not binary; (ii) not based solely on evidence, since that is a naive rejection of Quine’s attack on the analytic/synthetic distinction. It is perhaps easier to envision the scientist who is most primed to notice a spurious data point and ask, “Is that noise, or a new phenomenon?” Douglas Osheroff won the Nobel Prize in in Physics because he identified a spurious data point as superfluidity in Helium-3.

            It strikes me that you are perhaps overconfident in how the following two are done:

                 (1) research into objective reality
                 (2) research into objective morality

            Now, I’m not going to identify you with the kind of naïveté which is outright denial of e.g. Polanyi’s Personal Knowledge. But consider: both (1) and (2) are a kind of “reaching upward”. If there is a sensus divinitatis, then not only are we “reaching upward”, but God is “pulling upward”, a la Philippians 3:12 or Isaiah 55:6-9. Josef Pieper, in his Leisure: The Basis of Culture first piqued my curiosity on where creativity comes from. He suggested that perhaps God mucks around in this domain—after all, “In the beginning, God created“.

            Furthermore, (1) + (2) is [part of] how you get to know a person. You get to know (1) facts about them and their habits; (2) their desires, how they interact with other people, etc. Science could be described as “the study of God’s habits”. But when “evidence for God’s existence” is demanded, it is almost invariably asked exclusively in the (1)-domain, which can never identify personhood as such, because that’s not science. This claim may rely on some assumptions of mine that we can dig into later.

            “What would an omni-* deity do to…?” is just a way of fooling yourself by doing moral reasoning exactly like everyone else does it but not calling the outcome “what I find the morally best choice” but rather “what god would want”. This has the ugly tendency of making people way too confident that their moral judgments are right. People are already annoyingly stubborn about moral judgments without that, but if people manage to fool themselves into believing that their moral judgments are not actually their moral judgments but rather the moral judgments of some allmighty god, then how dare you disagree with them GOD?!.

            Sharp knives are sharp. I will point out that the Bible repeatedly praises humility and meekness, and lambastes arrogance and pride; Proverbs 16:5 is to-the-point. Now, churches today either avoid the issue of humility/pride altogether, or tend to grossly misunderstand the concepts. I believe the better atheists and skeptics out there (I’m looking at you, Boghossian, as a counterexample) are really onto something when they say that many Christians are overconfident in what they believe.

            My 10,000+ hours of debating Christianity on primarily-atheist sites has had a profound impact on how confidently I hold my various beliefs. One of those sites, Something Awful, has such a wide variety of experts who frequent it that the moment you make a false or questionable claim, you get jumped all over, unless perhaps it is a caricature of Christianity. I learned to be very careful in what I said and how strongly I asserted it. Even in IRL conversations, I am careful to note when I have merely heard something but not verified it. I understand this “overconfidence” issue quite deeply. It also made my life absolutely miserable for about the first twenty-one years, when people assumed they understood me much more than they did.

            P.S. See the quotation of Calvin at the end of Michael Servetus#Imprisonment and execution. Talk about scary stuff which still is still alive in various forms among some Christians, notably Calvinists. This attitude of Calvin’s was definitely present in Massachusetts, and led to persecution of Quakers. They were dangerous, because they thought individually! So much for Jer 31:31-34 and Ezek 36:22-32; it’s back to OT times (and a bad reading of the OT, at that)!

            No, that is a contradiction – I can´t even know that I want things that are diametrically opposed (or just somewhat different) from what this person wants without having some kind of relationship with this person in the first place – I could end the relationship after finding that out but “thwarting a possible relationship” would be a contradiction.

            I ran across a fantastic disproof of your stand yesterday. A friend of mine is a CS prof at a prestigious university, and told me of an autistic kid who asked to audit one of his classes. He allowed it, and the kid started asking questions that baffled the students. My friend realized that he was asking really advanced questions, explained the questions to the class, and started engaging this kid in increasingly complex ways. Later on, my friend met up with the kid’s aunt, and observed her speaking about her nephew as if he weren’t there. My friend expressed mild outrage that she was doing this, and tried to explain to her how to successfully talk to her nephew. Prior to this, the aunt hardly even thought of her nephew as a functional, communicative person!

            If you have too many wrong beliefs about what another person is like, that really can thwart communication and turn the person → object.

            But you do want to be in a relationship with the god you believe in. Still he doesn´t “show up”, because you want what he wants, but you don´t “want it enough”, right? And no matter how much more you will “want what he wants”, nothing will ever be enough, god will not “show up” for you just like no god ever “showed up” for anyone else. And you will keep telling yourself that it´s all your fault for not desiring or believing exactly what you should desire and believe and if only you could change even more to finally reach this unknown standard when god will finally deem you worthy and show up…. And that´s how a false idea can survive forever.

            I believe he has shown up, through my creativity. Now, you can easily say that the creativity was “100% Luke Breuer”. After all, I have good genes, was raised pretty well compared to most people, and got a good education. What I see you doing here, Andy, is removing any possibility of distinguishing God interacting with me, with me thinking things. And yet I don’t quite think you’re doing this, given the general impression you’ve left on me to-date. So I’m confused.

            Cognitive dissonance.

            Is this the only cause? This term, ‘cognitive dissonance’, is thrown around like candy by atheists and skeptics. Often, it seems more of a just-so story with zero predictive power, than a true model which can help us understand reality ever-more-deeply.

            But you said you would do what you do anyway, you just would not find a certain future to be likely.

            You’ve heard of “self-fulfilling prophecies” and “where there’s a will, there’s a way”, right?

            This wouldn´t be a test of your religious beliefs, this would be a test if certain actions (which don´t involve deities or interactions with them) lead to certain outcomes (which also don´t involve deities or interactions with them) – it´s a social experiment you propose, “God” is an appendage that could be removed from the experiment without making any difference.

            Likewise, I can smash my concept of my wife as a person into a collection of brute facts, and then I won’t have this troubling complex idea of “personhood” to deal with.

          • Andy_Schueler

            I think God exposes him to people in more ways than you allow for, in ways which allow for (i) misinterpretation; (ii) vague impressions that don’t rise to “oh, that’s an deity!”

            That simply means “God might expose himself in ways that don´t require him to expose himself.”

            I’ve talked to my friend about specifically these things, and while he thinks there might be moral agents in what he calls “the metaphysical realm”, he’s extremely reticent to think of there being anything or anyone like Yahweh there. I don’t see why this is a problem; why must the sensus divinitatis immediately show up as a full-fledged conception of Yahweh? That actually doesn’t make sense; human understanding marches forward slowly, not in leaps and bounds.

            It´s not a full-fledged conception of Yahweh, it´s not a “half-fledged” conception of Yahweh, it´s not a conception of Yahweh at all – except for the completely trivial sense that Yahweh might have caused it without giving even the tiniest hint of it being him that caused it (in that sense, I “sense” Yahweh all the time – I saw a cat a few minutes ago, and I can´t prove that this wasn´t a “signal” from Yahweh).

            A few posts above I linked Creating God in one’s own image, although not by name. I don’t find your argument convincing, but perhaps my argument requires the sensus divinitatis? The way I model things, to even be open to God correcting our ideas about (a) is; (b) ought, we have to be properly humble. This means having the right confidence in our various beliefs.

            You are not actually asserting anything here, that is theo-speak, every term you use is maximally vague and no conceivable state of reality could contradict or support this, which is equivalent to you stating something that looks like a proposition but not actually being a proposition.

            It is perhaps easier to envision the scientist who is most primed to notice a spurious data point and ask, “Is that noise, or a new phenomenon?” Douglas Osheroffwon the Nobel Prize in in Physics because he identified a spurious data point as superfluidity in Helium-3.

            That is the exact opposite of what you are doing.

            It strikes me that you are perhaps overconfident in how the following two are done:

            (1) research into objective reality
            (2) research into objective morality

            Now, I’m not going to identify you with the kind of naïveté which is outright denial of e.g. Polanyi’sPersonal Knowledge. But consider: both (1) and (2) are a kind of “reaching upward”. If there is asensus divinitatis, then not only are we “reaching upward”, but God is “pulling upward”, a la Philippians 3:12 or Isaiah 55:6-9. Josef Pieper, in his Leisure: The Basis of Culturefirst piqued my curiosity on wherecreativity comes from. He suggested that perhaps God mucks around in this domain—after all, “In the beginning, God created”.

            Furthermore, (1) + (2) is [part of] how you get to know a person. You get to know (1) facts about them and their habits; (2) their desires, how they interact with other people, etc. Science could be described as “the study of God’s habits”. But when “evidence for God’s existence” is demanded, it is almost invariably asked exclusively in the (1)-domain, which can never identify personhood as such, because that’s not science. This claim may rely on some assumptions of mine that we can dig into later.

            I already see you turning into a “sophisticated theologian”, which is very unfortunate because it means spending your time and talent on stuff like this here – finding clever ways to insert references to god into meaningful sentences, in such a way that most people don´t notice that all God references are meaningless appendages, which could be deleted without removing any semantic content from the sentences.

            I ran across a fantastic disproof of your stand yesterday. A friend of mine is a CS prof at a prestigious university, and told me of an autistic kid who asked to audit one of his classes. He allowed it, and the kid started asking questions that baffled the students. My friend realized that he was asking really advancedquestions, explained the questions to the class, and started engaging this kid in increasingly complex ways. Later on, my friend met up with the kid’s aunt, and observed her speaking about her nephew as if he weren’t there. My friend expressed mild outrage that she was doing this, and tried to explain to her how to successfully talk to her nephew. Prior to this, the aunt hardly even thought of her nephew as a functional, communicative person!

            If you have too many wrong beliefs about what another person is like, that really can thwart communication and turn the person → object.

            If the aunt would have had absolutely zero reasons to believe that she has a nephew until she started believing a set of very specific things about a nephew (without her having any way of knowing which things she has to believe and not even any way to know that she actually has a nephew to begin with), then this might actually be relevant for what I said.

            I believe he has shown up, through my creativity. Now, you can easily say that the creativity was “100% Luke Breuer”. After all, I have good genes, was raised pretty well compared to most people, and got a good education. What I see you doing here, Andy, is removing any possibility of distinguishing God interacting with me, with me thinking things. And yet I don’t quite think you’re doing this, given the general impression you’ve left on me to-date. So I’m confused.

            “removing any possibility of distinguishing God interacting with me, with me thinking things”…. I believe that I am interacting with an alien species that appear to be sentient sponges from a planet in a faraway galaxy, they show up all the time in my life, just yesterday for example I had a really good idea while I was working on a Python script – and if this doesn´t prove that I am interacting with my sponge friends from a faraway galaxy, then this would remove ANY possibility of distinguishing these alien sponges interacting with me from me simply thinking things – I mean, how else coult those sponges possibly interact with me?

            Is this the only cause? This term, ‘cognitive dissonance’, is thrown around like candy by atheists and skeptics. Often, it seems more of a just-so story with zero predictive power, than a true model which can help us understand reality ever-more-deeply.

            Read “Mistakes were made (but not by me)” by Carol Tavris.

            You’ve heard of “self-fulfilling prophecies” and “where there’s a will, there’s a way”, right?

            Relevance?

            Likewise, I can smash my concept of my wife as a person into a collection of brute facts, and then I won’t have this troubling complex idea of “personhood” to deal with.

            I have literally no idea whatsoever about what this is supposed to mean and how it is supposed to relate to what I said.

          • Luke Breuer

            That simply means “God might expose himself in ways that don´t require him to expose himself.”

            Your uncharitable interpretation of my argument is growing tedious, Andy. There exists a gray area between “God is definitely not acting” and “God is obviously acting”. In that gray area, some would see his acting and others would not. Why is this not obvious?

            You are not actually asserting anything here, that is theo-speak, every term you use is maximally vague and no conceivable state of reality could contradict or support this, which is equivalent to you stating something that looks like a proposition but not actually being a proposition.

            More uncharitableness. I am trying to get at the least detectable, but still detectable, evidence that God is indeed acting in reality. You are resisting this every step of the way, it seems.

            That is the exact opposite of what you are doing.

            Do explain. My explanation is that Osheroff (i) had a strong grasp of the model of how supercooled Helium-3 worked; (ii) was very quick to observe observations that did not match with (i), and not dismiss them. What he did was almost Popperian-falsificationist. This shows a deep humility: he knew the model was the best science had, but was ready for the model to be disproven. This readiness, this humility, got him the Nobel Prize. My point was not that he was looking for patterns that nobody heretofore had found, my point was his humility.

            I already see you turning into a “sophisticated theologian”, which is very unfortunate because it means spending your time and talent on stuff like this here – finding clever ways to insert references to god into meaningful sentences, in such a way that most people don´t notice that all God references are meaningless appendages, which could be deleted without removing any semantic content from the sentences.

            I get what you’re saying. I am constantly on the lookout for when God can be subtracted with no loss in what is being communicated. This describes a good deal of Christianity, which I would characterize as at least partially ‘Gnostic’. It isn’t concerned with matching Christian beliefs with reality. This is why I say stuff like this:

            Ok, this really, really needs to stop. Sometimes vague language is correct because I do not know things with certainty. Stop being The Binary Thinker! Uncertainty in belief is a good thing, because it means beliefs can be modified by new evidence! I know I don’t have everything figured out. Some things I’m more certain on, like the three triads: Mt 7:1-5, Mt 23:1-4, Gal 6:1-5; Mt 5:43-48, Jn 13:-34-35, Jn 17:20-23; Mt 5:23-24, Mt 18:15-20, Eph 4:25-27. I can describe these in great detail to you. But I cannot describe everything in great detail, because I do not understand everything in great detail.

            I am not building a castle in the sky—portions of the castle are fixed firmly to the ground. You can definitely claim that there is a ground-portion and a sky-portion, but then I’ll point you to Wikipedia’s top-down and bottom-up design article, and say that there is a distinct possibility of connecting the ‘top’ with the ‘bottom’. They can be made to meet in the middle and connect.

            If the aunt would have had absolutely zero reasons to believe that she has a nephew until she started believing a set of very specific things about a nephew (without her having any way of knowing which things she has to believe and not even any way to know that she actually has a nephew to begin with), then this might actually be relevant for what I said.

            No, there is a very important distinction between “fully functioning person” and “person who doesn’t communicate and just needs food, shelter, and other basic necessities”. The fact that the aunt didn’t think she could communicate with her nephew is key to my illustration. I will not let you wave it away so nonchalantly. The aunt’s wrong conceptions about her nephew kept her from communicating with him. This is just a fantastic illustration of how wrong ideas can prevent communication. It is something you seem to be in denial about. Don’t throw in a red herring about the nephew being visible and touchable; these are 100% irrelevant. Wrong beliefs prevented communication.

            Relevance?

            Strength of belief can critically influence action. And yet, strength of belief cannot just be drummed up a la doxastic voluntarism. And so, if people have strong beliefs, there are objective reasons for those beliefs. One such possible reason is that the belief was a good approximation of the truth. It isn’t the only possible reason, as the 9/11 hijackers demonstrated. But not just any belief can root itself in someone’s brain and wield incredible power. I think the answer to Are there laws which govern minds? is a strong “yes”, and that this “yes” and the details thereof bear relevance on our discussion.

            I have literally no idea whatsoever about what this is supposed to mean and how it is supposed to relate to what I said.

            You have no idea of how some people view [at least some] other people as objects instead of people?

          • Andy_Schueler

            Your uncharitable interpretation of my argument is growing tedious, Andy. There exists a gray area between “God is definitely not acting” and “God is obviously acting”. In that gray area, some would see his acting and others would not. Why is this not obvious?

            1. There is no such thing as “God definitely not acting”, for no possible act would it be possible to prove the claim “God had nothing to do with it”.
            2. The “gray area” is thus rather between “no evidence for the involvement of a deity whatsoever” and “extremely likely that a deity or deity-like being was involved” – and what you describe does not correspond to the gray area.

            More uncharitableness. I am trying to get at the least detectable, but still detectable, evidence that God is indeed acting in reality. You are resisting this every step of the way, it seems.

            No. You are inserting references to God, which sound like propositions but actually are none (because they don´t deny anything) in claims about completely mundane things, and those claims would not lose any semantic content if the God references were simply removed. That is not being uncharitable, that is simply being honest – you are falling into the trap of modern “sophisticated theology” and you are fooling yourself.

            Do explain. My explanation is that Osheroff (i) had a strong grasp of the model of how supercooled Helium-3 worked; (ii) was very quick to observe observations that did not match with (i), and not dismiss them. What he did was almost Popperian-falsificationist. This shows a deep humility: he knew the model was the best science had, but was ready for the model to be disproven. This readiness, this humility, got him the Nobel Prize. My point was not that he was looking for patterns that nobody heretofore had found, my point was his humility.

            Your god model is designed to be absolutely impossible to disprove and to simultaneously get the credit for countless things that have no logical connection whatsoever to it. I don´t think you´re doing that on purpose, but you are doing that.

            I get what you’re saying. I am constantly on the lookout for when God can be subtracted with no loss in what is being communicated. This describes a good deal of Christianity, which I would characterize as at least partially ‘Gnostic’. It isn’t concerned with matching Christian beliefs with reality. This is why I say stuff like this:

            Ok, this really, really needs to stop. Sometimes vague language is correct because I do not know things with certainty. Stop being The Binary Thinker! Uncertainty in belief is a good thing, because it means beliefs can be modified by new evidence! I know I don’t have everything figured out. Some things I’m more certain on, like the three triads: Mt 7:1-5, Mt 23:1-4, Gal 6:1-5; Mt 5:43-48, Jn 13:-34-35, Jn 17:20-23; Mt 5:23-24, Mt 18:15-20, Eph 4:25-27. I can describe these in great detail to you. But I cannot describeeverything in great detail, because I do not understandeverything in great detail.

            I am not building a castle in the sky—portions of the castle are fixed firmly to the ground. You can definitely claim that there is a ground-portion and a sky-portion, but then I’ll point you to Wikipedia’s top-down and bottom-up design article, and say that there is a distinct possibility of connecting the ‘top’ with the ‘bottom’. They can be made to meet in the middle and connect.

            Nothing you have said so far indicates this. What I said before, that your God model is designed to be absolutely impossible to disprove and simultaneously designed to get all the credit for things it has no logical connection to, is a consequences of the language you use. When you describe how your model could be falsified for example, the key terms are left maximally vague – what is “humble” enough? What is “loving” enough? How close to “Gods desires” do your desires have to be and how can you even know that? And so on and so forth – no amount of failure can prove your model wrong, there is always a safety hatch for god that allows you to blame the failure on humans for not being biblical enough, not submitting to god enough, not loving each other enough, not what have you enough – and since there is no defined threshold of “enough”, your God is at exactly zero risk of being refuted. And the same with giving credit to God where it doesn´t belong – the vague language allows you to give all the credit for all kinds of things to God, although there is absolutely no logical connection between your model and the things you give god credit for.

            No, there is a very important distinction between “fully functioning person” and “person who doesn’t communicate and just needs food, shelter, and other basic necessities”. The fact that the aunt didn’t think she could communicate with her nephew is key to my illustration. I will not let you wave it away so nonchalantly. The aunt’s wrong conceptions about her nephew kept her from communicating with him. This is just a fantastic illustration of how wrong ideas can prevent communication. It is something you seem to be in denial about. Don’t throw in a red herring about the nephew being visible and touchable; these are 100% irrelevant. Wrong beliefs prevented communication.

            I don´t care about the nephew being visible and touchable – you can actually have a relationship with him, you can ask him stuff and he can actually answer, you can observe his behaviour, facial expression, gestures and so on and so forth – it has literally nothing in common with an alleged being that is for all you know non-existent but might show up as soon as you start believing some hyper-specific things about it and desiring exactly what it wants without you having any way to know what to desire and what to believe because you cannot ask it even if you wanted to. You scenario has absolutely nothing to do with the issue at hand.

            You have no idea of how some people view [at least some] other people as objects instead of people?

            So, some people are viewing god as an object and that´s like you smashing your wife into a set of brute facts and that´s… what does this have to do with anything?

          • Luke Breuer

            1. There is no such thing as “God definitely not acting”, for no possible act would it be possible to prove the claim “God had nothing to do with it”.

            I’m not so sure; a complete model of the phenomenon—of the how—would probably render the why useless. At least in the physicalist paradigm. “What you call ‘God’, I call ‘the laws of physics’.”

            2. The “gray area” is thus rather between “no evidence for the involvement of a deity whatsoever” and “extremely likely that a deity or deity-like being was involved” – and what you describe does not correspond to the gray area.

            Then how would you characterize this gray area?

            (because they don´t deny anything)

            You would benefit from reading the several pages about crystallography in Polanyi’s Personal Knowledge. He points out that crystallography is not falsifiable, and that it doesn’t matter a whit if some crystals don’t fit into the theory he was talking about, because it offers such a beautiful, compact model of enough phenomena.

            Let’s try something. Suppose that I can get to the 10% level, of connecting Bible verses with truths, primarily about human psychology. Furthermore, suppose that most people today are in denial of, or staunchly resistant to, the bulk of what is found. When I say “most people”, I mean it to cut across all people, regardless of education level, area of specialization, religious belief, etc. Would it be reasonable to suppose that some super-intelligent entity had somehow influenced said 10% of the Bible?

            My answer is “probably not, unless the entity can still be contacted”. I think we’ve covered this, or similar ground, in the past—didn’t it lead to our discussion about ‘relationship’, breaking it into ‘English-relationship’ and ‘Christianese-relationship’? Now, enter my claim that with sufficiently few bad beliefs (or overconfidence in held beliefs) and with sufficiently many good beliefs (or right confidence in held beliefs), one can actually communicate with God, back and forth. One way to model the received communication is as human creativity. Is that a done deal? It could only ever have been human creativity? What would falsify this?

            I keep returning to this personal relationship thing. I want to qualify it: I think God really has a relationship with the entire church; see the Christianity.SE What is the history of the concept of a “personal relationship with Jesus”? I think this is why Mt 5:43-48, Jn 13:34-35, and Jn 17:20-23 exist, not to mention e.g. Eph 4. But you could easily respond: isn’t that just humans cooperating with each other, a la modern science? I’m not sure I can win at this game. At every point, you can provide a counter-explanation. That counter-explanation seems better at every step, regardless of the hypothetical ontology behind things.

            Don’t think I’m criticizing you for “asking for evidence with no intention of changing your mind”; the above is my own internal struggle, between the Christian-explanation and the atheist-explanation. As best I can tell, it all boils down to one’s own personal experience or lack thereof, of God. And we have sound reason to suppose that many, if not all people think they know God much better than they do. (regardless of my RDVT is false comment)

            Your god model is designed to be absolutely impossible to disprove and to simultaneously get the credit for countless things that have no logical connection whatsoever to it. I don´t think you´re doing that on purpose, but you are doing that.

            I understand the criticism, but something has long perplexed me, because in some sense, viewing an entity as a person (e.g. The Measure of a Man) is something we definitely choose to do or not do. What is it that causes us to make the choice one way or another? What is it that causes us to switch from “small, deterministic system” to “full-fledged person with the same rights as me“?

            When we talk about English-relationship vs. Christianese-relationship, you keep returning to whether or not the entity is a human being, or something so close to a human being that I have a hard time seeing what the most general form of ‘being’ is you would admit to, where you could still have a relationship with that being. You seem utterly unwilling to ‘loosen up’ what a relationship could look like. That is, if I try and wiggle ‘English-relationship’ at all, it snaps, and becomes ‘Christianese-relationship’.

            At some point, it seems possible to collect enough brute facts about reality and my experience in reality to find a pattern among those facts that is best described as ‘God’. God doesn’t come to me on my terms, I have to ‘loosen up’ my terms until they’re sufficiently not-stupid. This very much parallels how the aunt had to ‘loosen up’ her terms of communication with her nephew before she could have a true conversation with him. I just don’t understand why you don’t seem to respect this parallel as meaningful. At the very least, I should think it would start to chart the region between English-relationship and Christianese-relationship. Can you see such a ‘between’?

            Having thought about this for a while, I’d say I experience my relationship with God on three levels:

                 (1) learning more about reality
                 (2) learning more about morality
                 (3) inner healing/increased wholeness

            Psalm 119:32 is apt:

            I will run in the way of your commandments
                when you enlarge my heart!

            Interpret “enlarge my heart” as “increase my being”, where “being” is, at least in part, composed of my true beliefs about reality and internal wholeness of self (vs. having parts of me that hate other parts of me, for example). Partially captured in the Eureka effect, there is a sense in which one feels like one has ‘become more‘ after any of (1-3). There is a sense of conquering (to the one who conquers…), of acquiring more land in one’s domain. And yet, precisely this kind of ‘more’ is something that everyone can have more of, which is why Jeremiah says this:

            Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” (Jer 9:23-24)

            Something I have observed about people is that they want more. There are evil kinds of ‘more’, which result in winners and losers. But increased knowledge of God—of which (1-3) are at least parts—does not produce losers. Indeed, if each person experiences God at least slightly differently, the more people who talk about their experiences of God, the more can be known about him. I think he did this on purpose, so that any individual would only have a sliver of an idea of him. The need for community has been designed into the system. Philosophically, you need unity, and you need diversity.

            Again, you can say that (1-3) are doable without an English-relationship with God. Perhaps I am romanticizing nature and anthropomorphizing it, like people anthropomorphize their pets. What happens, though, when it becomes cognitively less burdensome to begin with “a personal, infinite, omni-deity exists”? Are you going to say that this would never be less cognitively burdensome? If not, isn’t “simplicity” (Ockham’s razor) ultimately that which requires the lowest cognitive load?

            Or perhaps thinking about God takes the highest cognitive load, kind of like it’s much easier to treat another person as a project than a person. If you treat someone else as a person, you have to take seriously his/her hopes, dreams, fears, desires, etc. You need to engage with him/her on every level. Much social interaction does not involve this; much social interaction is: “What can I get from you and how little can I pay for it?”

            I don´t care about the nephew being visible and touchable – you can actually have a relationship with him, you can ask him stuff and he can actually answer, you can observe his behaviour, facial expression, gestures and so on and so forth

            What you italicized is only possible if you have sufficiently few false beliefs and sufficiently many true beliefs. The aunt, in my recounting, was not able to have the italicized kind of relationship. I can expand this by telling you about a studio which took in autistic kids, and provided the resources for them to be creative via diorama, animated movie, etc. I personally witnessed a mother recount a doctor telling her that she’d never have more than her current relationship with her son. After he had been attending the studio for a while, he opened up beyond her wildest imagination. The relationship she was then able to have with him was virtually different in kind from the one she had before.

            I really don’t see you acknowledging the magnitude of the above, the magnitude of the fact that your belief structure determines whether or not you can have more than the most basic of relationships with another human being. If this is true of human ↔ human relationships, why would it not be true of human ↔ God relationships? Why? You, Andy, seem so confident that if Jesus existed and were in relationship with me, that I would necessarily be able to introduce Jesus to you, and you could have a conversation. Do you not realize that there exist autistic people for whom this statement is false? They’d stare at you ‘dumbly’ (actually no, many wouldn’t even look at you), unless you had enough of the right beliefs.

            You scenario has absolutely nothing to do with the issue at hand.

            I strongly, strongly disagree, and am starting to get very annoyed that you cannot even bring yourself to simulate my viewpoint. Maybe we’ll just have to shelve this conversation.

            So, some people are viewing god as an object and that´s like you smashing your wife into a set of brute facts and that´s… what does this have to do with anything?

            Einstein’s God was the full set of impersonal laws of nature. The difference between ‘impersonal’ and ‘personal’ is huge. Whether you treat another person as a person or as an object is huge. Reality is filled with situations where you can accurately model humans as believing that only a subset of the other humans were true people, deserving of people-rights. So, what, precisely, is it that distinguishes between personhood and objecthood? I don’t buy that this difference is made-up; that’s bullshit. Without morality having certain properties, modern science would be impossible. How you value things determines what you can build. How you think of things determines what you can build.

            I admit that I haven’t fully teased out all the implications of “the laws of nature” being personal or impersonal. (If this seems weird, just look Logos, and recall that Jesus is called the Logos.) My intuition tells me that what foundation you pick fundamentally determines what you can build on top of it. What does it mean to be human? That question depends on whether or not reality is ultimately personal (or to be theistic instead of pantheistic or panentheistic, reality is a creation of a personal being). Your foundation matters.

            Andy, I get a strong sense of “I cannot understand what Luke is saying” ⇒ “Luke is speaking nonsense”. Maybe you don’t mean this, but that comes across pretty strongly in how you speak. Just FYI.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Then how would you characterize this gray area?

            We´ve been there before – see above.

            You would benefit from reading the several pages about crystallography in Polanyi’s Personal Knowledge. He points out that crystallography is not falsifiable, and that it doesn’t matter a whit if some crystals don’t fit into the theory he was talking about, because it offers such a beautiful, compact model of enough phenomena.

            I wasn´t talking about falsifiability. Also, I haven´t read Polanyi, but – “crystallography” is an entire field, you can´t falsify it just like you can´t “falsify geology”.

            Let’s try something. Suppose that I can get to the 10% level, of connecting Bible verses with truths, primarily about human psychology. Furthermore, suppose that most people today are in denial of, or staunchly resistant to, the bulk of what is found. When I say “most people”, I mean it to cut across all people, regardless of education level, area of specialization, religious belief, etc. Would it be reasonable to suppose that some super-intelligent entity had somehow influenced said 10% of the Bible?

            Some of Bible authors seem to be pretty smart, yes. “Super-intelligent”, dunno, depends on what the threshold for “super-intelligent” is.

            When we talk about English-relationship vs. Christianese-relationship, you keep returning to whether or not the entity is a human being, or something so close to a human being that I have a hard time seeing what the most general form of ‘being’ is you would admit to, where you could still have a relationship with that being. You seem utterly unwilling to ‘loosen up’ what a relationship could look like. That is, if I try and wiggle ‘English-relationship’ at all, it snaps, and becomes ‘Christianese-relationship’.

            Because “wiggling” in this case means removing what relationships are all about – it´s like removing the “inter” from “interacting with another person”, without the “inter”, you only act, there is no back and forth, no give and take, it becomes a completely different concept.

            God doesn’t come to me on my terms, I have to ‘loosen up’ my terms until they’re sufficiently not-stupid. This very much parallels how the aunt had to ‘loosen up’ her terms of communication with her nephew before she could have a true conversation with him. I just don’t understand why you don’t seem to respect this parallel as meaningful. At the very least, I should think it would start to chart the region between English-relationship and Christianese-relationship. Can you see such a ‘between’?

            If anything, I see the opposite – the mistake that the aunt made is that she didn´t treat her nephew as a full person by, for example not including him in a conversation and speak with him, but rather talk to others about him, as if he´s not even there or as if he has nothing to contribute – but if your god is real, that is exactly what you do as well, you only talk about him, never with him.

            Having thought about this for a while, I’d say I experience my relationship with God on three levels:

            (1) learning more about reality
            (2) learning more about morality
            (3) inner healing/increased wholeness

            You want to have a relationship with God. But you don´t have one. So you look for something you do have and just call it a “relationship with God”. It´s a word game – like “God is love”.

            Interpret “enlarge my heart” as “increase my being”, where “being” is, at least in part, composed of my true beliefs about reality and internal wholeness of self (vs. having parts of me that hate other parts of me, for example).

            Ok, let me play that game for a minute.
            “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
            God is everywhere, but without love, you cannot know him. So how do you know love?
            “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
            – And that´s how you will know that you´ve found God.
            That took me roughly a minute, and I could go on like this and write an entire book full of word games where I insert references to God in otherwise meaningful sentences to give people the illusion of God being a meaningful concept.
            But all I´ve done is taking something that is real and that people can find, said some nice and clever things about it, and then called it “God” for no reason at all – the BS I wrote here doesn´t lose any meaning if I simply remove the God references completely.

            Again, you can say that (1-3) are doable without an English-relationship with God. Perhaps I am romanticizing nature and anthropomorphizing it, like people anthropomorphize their pets. What happens, though, when it becomes cognitively less burdensome to begin with “a personal, infinite, omni-deity exists”? Are you going to say that this would never be less cognitively burdensome?

            Absolutely, because it always boils down to you doing what everyone else does and then doing something on top of that – playing a word game to insert God somewhere.

            Or perhaps thinking about God takes the highest cognitive load, kind of like it’s much easier to treat another person as a project than a person. If you treat someone else as a person, you have to take seriously his/her hopes, dreams, fears, desires, etc.

            You can´t do that with God even if you wanted to, you can only treat him like the aunt treated her autistic nephew – only speak about him, never to him, only act, never interact.

            I really don’t see you acknowledging the magnitude of the above, the magnitude of the fact that your belief structure determines whether or not you can have more than the most basic of relationships with another human being. If this is true of human ↔ human relationships, why would it not be true of human ↔ God relationships? Why?

            There is a difference between a limited relationship and no relationship. And you have no relationship with God, not a limited one. If you had a limited one, then you could go on to fix it by giving god more opportunities to express himself to you. But you don´t do that, and you can´t do that.

            You, Andy, seem so confident that if Jesus existed and were in relationship with me, that I would necessarily be able to introduce Jesus to you, and you could have a conversation. Do you not realize that there exist autistic people for whom this statement is false? They’d stare at you ‘dumbly’ (actually no, many wouldn’t even look at you), unless you had enough of the right beliefs.

            Again, a limited relationship is not the same as no relationship.

          • Luke Breuer

            We´ve been there before – see above.

            I actually don’t recall us talking about this in particular; can you at least point me to some key words? You said:

            That simply means “God might expose himself in ways that don´t require him to expose himself.”

            It´s not a full-fledged conception of Yahweh, it´s not a “half-fledged” conception of Yahweh, it´s not a conception of Yahweh at all – except for the completely trivial sense that Yahweh might have caused it without giving even the tiniest hint of it being him that caused it (in that sense, I “sense” Yahweh all the time – I saw a cat a few minutes ago, and I can´t prove that this wasn´t a “signal” from Yahweh).

            Were you referring to these, or something else? I’m actually trying to learn something from this interchange, and not just spit out words and forget them. :-|

            I wasn´t talking about falsifiability. Also, I haven´t read Polanyi, but – “crystallography” is an entire field, you can´t falsify it just like you can´t “falsify geology”.

            On Phil.SE I excerpted Polanyi on crystallographic theory. Given that he studied this stuff and did philosophy, I’m inclined to believe him. But perhaps I didn’t represent him sufficiently well to you before.

            When you said “(because they don´t deny anything)”, what did you mean, if not “(because you cannot falsify them)”? Crystallographic theory didn’t deny anything, it just wasn’t guaranteed to match anything. At least some Christians, myself included, hold that God is not the only first-cause agent out there. He didn’t and doesn’t do everything that was and is done. When Jesus said “he can do only what he sees his Father doing”, one can interpret this as him picking out a strict subset of what happens on earth and identifying that as “God was doing that”.

            If you dive into philosophy of science literature on what constitutes natural law and what ontology that dictates, you’ll go pretty interesting places. If someone finds that his/her belief in God seems to explain a lot of what happens, compactly, does that make God ontic? In some sense, if I say that my wife did something, what people will evaluate is whether doing that is within her character. If it is, they will believe me easily. If not, they will have questions. One can do the same with God: is a given action within his character? And yet, you want to say that it’s ok to say that my wife did something, but not ok to say that God did something. I’m not sure how consistent your stance is.

            Some of Bible authors seem to be pretty smart, yes. “Super-intelligent”, dunno, depends on what the threshold for “super-intelligent” is.

            I’m pretty sure that Jesus cares more that you trust him than accede to this or that. Same for Yahweh in the OT. The goal, after all, is to have right behavior well up from inside our being, and not be imposed from the outside—Jer 31:31-34, Ezek 36:22-32. It’s very Kantian in at least some ways. The claim that “sin is lawlessness” is profound, especially when one considers that ‘legalism’ is not the only form of not-lawlessness. Anyone who becomes an expert at anything understands a better form of not-lawlessness. One could say that the best form of not-lawlessness arises from research into physical and moral objective reality—their true nature, instead of man-made approximations that all too often get accepted as gospel truth. (Planck: “Science advances one funeral at a time.”) Finally: hypocrisy is lawlessness hidden under the guise of lawfulness.

            Because “wiggling” in this case means removing what relationships are all about – it´s like removing the “inter” from “interacting with another person”, without the “inter”, you only act, there is no back and forth, no give and take, it becomes a completely different concept.

            Not again; it’s not 100% different. We’ve been over this. But anyhow: you’re dismissing all religious experiences as brain noise or something like that. Ok I guess, but that’s a lot of dismissing. If you’re going to wave away evidence like that, you can win any argument about fuzzy areas of life that are hard to characterize and figure out laws for.

            If anything, I see the opposite – the mistake that the aunt made is that she didn´t treat her nephew as a full person by, for example not including him in a conversation and speak with him, but rather talk to others about him, as if he´s not even there or as if he has nothing to contribute – but if your god is real, that is exactly what you do as well, you only talk about him, never with him.

            That was not the aunt’s error. She had tried to communicate with him, and failed. So she concluded that one could not communicate with him. Have you ever tried to talk to a severely autistic kid? It can be difficult, and impossible if you don’t know enough about how to communicate properly with him/her.

            You want to have a relationship with God. But you don´t have one. So you look for something you do have and just call it a “relationship with God”. It´s a word game – like “God is love”.

            This reminds me of Scott Adams’ God’s Debris. My wife and I are actually going to meet with a pastor to talk about the difference from merely trying to become like Jesus, vs. Jesus helping us out in the process. Most of his sermons are so strongly of the former type that Jesus doesn’t seem to need to actually exist for the sermons to make sense.

            The way you’re discussing with me though, makes it very hard to distinguish between (a) Jesus existing and helping us conform to his image; (b) Jesus not existing and us just pushing ourselves. What would be evidence of (a) over (b)? When you say “completely different concept“, that hinders conversation. Learning about a person is a very important part of getting to know a person. I’m aware of the difference between kennen and wißen, by the way.

            Ok, let me play that game for a minute.

            I’m vaguely aware of versions of Christianity that turn all the Christianese into symbols and such. There was a Christian on Something Awful who spoke in the most crazy ways, channeling Barth and Tillich but not in any sensible way I could discern. There is a draw to this form of Christianity, because it seems to try and understand more structure to the faith than shrouding Jesus and Yahweh and grace and redemption in an impenetrable fog.

            the BS I wrote here doesn´t lose any meaning if I simply remove the God references completely.

            But why treat any human being as a person, instead of as a set of brute facts about him/her? What you seem to say here is that you can take any and all brute facts collected into the symbol ‘God’, remove the symbol, and still have the brute facts. Except, we know that the model of a person as having character actually has explanatory power. Furthermore, there are ineffable aspects to relationships between two beings. Merely talking about brute facts doesn’t cut the mustard.

            You may enjoy Massimo Pigliucci’s series on emergence, starting here. It is perfectly possible that a person’s character is just at a different level of description than the brute facts about that person. And yet, what you seem to be claiming is that there is no way to ‘collect’ certain of the brute facts about the world and attribute them to God, a la Jesus’ “I only do what I see the father doing.” You seem to be claiming that identifying a subset of what goes on in the world as consistent with the character of an omni-god adds nothing to our understanding of reality. And yet, when we attribute a subset of what goes in the world as consistent with a human’s character, that is ok. This seems like a fundamental asymmetry in thinking!

            Absolutely, because it always boils down to you doing what everyone else does and then doing something on top of that – playing a word game to insert God somewhere.

            I’m not sure I do the same thing as everyone else. Many people accept the culture they are born into, and merely seek to fit in somehow. The Bible describes this as “being in the world and of the world”. Recently, I went to a birthday party where the only thing a group of people did was complain. Society sucks this way, society sucks that way. And yet, there was zero discussion about how to change society. These people weren’t looking for ‘better’—there was no Phil 4:8 or 1 Cor 10:23.

            In contrast to this, the Christian is called to question the world’s way of doing things when it differs from “kingdom of heaven”-standards. Now, this in and of itself is not specific to Christians; plenty of people think about how to make the world a better place. I still think the majority of people don’t do this, but plenty of people do do it.

            Now we can split the group of people who reject reality-as-it-is in the hopes of something better, into those who have a hope of making progress, and those who just aren’t really going to do anything positive, for a variety of reason. It is this former group who I claim are most likely to be actively influenced by God. After all, God is trying to bring about a utopia on earth—this can be found in many places in the Bible. But he clearly wants to do this through people. This former group of people are the best candidates, no?

            Be warned: if your response to these three paragraphs is merely: “But you don’t have a relationship with God.”, I’m going to terminate the discussion. Your measure of progress in thinking about these things is so coarse that it is extremely frustrating. I am trying to construct a world in which God actually interacts, a world that is really similar to our world (if not identical with it). But if you keep saying “fail, fail, fail” to my efforts to construct such a world, you give me no measure of possible progress. This makes it very hard to continue discussing. Can you see why?

            There is a difference between a limited relationship and no relationship. And you have no relationship with God, not a limited one. If you had a limited one, then you could go on to fix it by giving god more opportunities to express himself to you. But you don´t do that, and you can´t do that.

            If there’s any way I personally experience God, it’s probably through what some have called ‘patternicity’ and ‘agenticity’. I may have cyclothymia, which is a less extreme version of bipolar disorder. There’s some question of this though, because I have learned to exert greater and greater control over my occasional hypomania; the opposite trend is much more common: it’s called kindling. I’ve gone in the opposition direction from standard, largely due to friends who have helped me reign in creative impulses and make them productive instead of wild. During one of my earlier hypomanic phases, I thought I was on track to solve P =? NP, which if you know about the problem, is just crazy. But lately, I’ve been writing stuff such as the RDVT is false, which is much more logical, connected, and understandable to other people.

            I’m currently reading Josef Pieper’s “Divine Madness”: Plato’s Case Against Secular Humanism, which makes use of Plato’s Phaedrus to talk about divine madness and divine inspiration. I have to say, being hypomanic (a) makes me feel closer to God, and even as if he is helping me make connections between ideas; (b) has some similarity to the general description of ‘divine madness’, where this madness tends to lead to great art/literature. Have you ever looked at some of the great artists and writers, who have then gone onto commit suicide? If you have not seen it, I highly suggest David Foster Wallace’s This is Water commencement address at Kenyon College in 2005. Sadly, Wallace took his own life. But why? Why do all these people kill themselves?

            My answer to this “Why?” is that people who take penetrating looks into reality get a really good look as to how fucked up it actually is. This tends to lead to depression: how do we get out of this mess? Feynman got depressed after he saw the results of nuclear bombs—how would humanity avoid self-annihilation? So one protection against see how fucked up reality really is, is denial, which Ernest Becker gets at in his Pulitzer Prize-winning The Denial of Death. Avoid the depression by denying the true state of reality.

            There is another option; we are not restricted to (i) depression; (ii) denial. That option is to have sufficiently good ideas about how to make reality a little less fucked up. I think Christianity provides a way, and can now explicate some of the details pretty well, connecting specific passages in the Bible to specific patterns in reality.

            One of the problems of today is hyperspecialization and a culture of “total work”, which Josef Pieper criticizes in his Leisure: The Basis of Culture, which he authored in Germany, in 1948, during reconstruction. Germany was in danger of avoiding leisure, a time during which one can think about making the world a better place, of “piercing the philosophical dome” of the current world. Pieper believed that there would always be ‘more’ to reality—this was likely based on his idea of God being infinite [in description] and increasingly knowable. He never wanted us to completely accept reality-as-it-is. isought is a terrible rut to get oneself in.

            Hyperspecialization keeps us from seeing the big picture and what might be wrong with the big picture. A sociologist is studying my wife’s laboratory, observing this very phenomenon, and how it is hindering science. Many do not even see this problem. Or consider NASA: I got to hear a talk at NASA JPL by a guy who was there for 40 years, and he asked what we thought the biggest problem facing JPL was. I answered: not enough systematizers, who could understand how the whole system fits together. He said I nailed it. See: Mars Climate Orbiter team finds likely cause of loss: “it was the failure of NASA’s systems engineering”.

            When I ask, “What’s wrong with this world and how can we head toward a better world?”, I sometimes actually feel like I get answers from God. It’s not like a conversation you and I have; the answers are fuzzier. See the quotation of Russell in the second page of this article. If there’s anything God-as-portrayed would want, it would be a better world. That’s all over the freaking Bible if you have eyes to see. So from time to time, especially when I’m hypomanic, I feel like I’m “on a team with God”, a la “For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

            Now, I suspect you’ll say I’m delusional. That’s normal; the term is theomania. But if you examine your thoughts on the matter, you might just find that you’ve set up a false dichotomy: (a) I’m making shit up but am still largely rational; (b) I’m delusional and not sufficiently grounded in reality. This false dichotomy expressly excludes true communication with God. It sets up a lose-lose situation in terms of me arguing for human ↔ divine communication. And Andy, it really does seem like you’ve set me up to fail. You’ve inserted enough assumptions, such that I can never convince you that I am in any sort of communication with God. Furthermore, I can never convince you that perhaps you have sufficiently (i) many wrong beliefs; (ii) few right beliefs, for you to successfully hear from God. It is a lose-lose situation for me. You’ve won not by rational argumentation, but by cleverly, perhaps unwittingly, grounding yourself in certain ideas of what reality is like.

            Fortunately, we can always see where my theomania takes me. It won’t be conclusive evidence—nothing ever really is—but the results might convince you at some future point. Maybe.

            N.B. I’ve been extremely reluctant to consider the possible-cyclothymia as contact with God, but it has become more reasonable as I’ve learned to turn the hypomanic condition to good use. Before it bore more silliness than fruit; now it’s bearing fruit.

          • Andy_Schueler

            I actually don’t recall us talking about this in particular; can you at least point me to some key words?

            Unfortunately I can´t because the DISQUS dashboard doesn´t seem to have a search function anymore.
            What I was referring to here and a few comments before that as well, was a conversation we had some weeks (months?) ago where you asked me for a demarcation between what I would consider to be evidence for a deity and evidence that doesn´t qualify for that.
            I gave you a list, you replied that none of the items would prove that it´s actually a deity instead of a super powerful alien, and I replied that I don´t see any meaningful difference between the two concepts and consider them to be identical from a purely pragmatic point of view.

            When you said “(because they don´t deny anything)”, what did you mean, if not “(because you cannot falsify them)”?

            As an example, imagine you said “God is all around us” and I ask “what does that mean? How would the world be any different if that statement were false?” – if you would not be able to answer the latter question (which essentially amounts to “what does your claim deny?”), then your claim “God is all around us” is not unfalsifiable, it is meaningless, it quite literally carries no semantic meaning. It would be “unfalsifiable” if you could answer the question “how would the world be different if this were false?”, but the differences you point out cannot be tested with out current capabilities. And modern theology is full of such meaningless sentences, theologians have pretty much turned this into an art form.
            Note that a claim like “a jewish preacher by the name of Jesus was senteced to death by Pontius Pilate, was executed and was raised from the dead” would not be meaningless in this sense because it clearly denies things, even if we cannot test them strictly.

            if I say that my wife did something, what people will evaluate is whether doing that is within her character. If it is, they will believe me easily. If not, they will have questions. One can do the same with God: is a given action within his character? And yet, you want to say that it’s ok to say that my wife did something, but not ok to say that God did something. I’m not sure how consistent your stance is.

            This analogy does not work on any level. You can´t even demonstrate that there is a God to begin with and if there were, you don´t know anything about his character – for your wife, you can prove that she exists beyond any reasonable doubt and give a description of what her character is like that can, at the very least, be made plausible based on what she demonstrably did and did not do. The analogy fails from the get go. But even if we ignored this, if I would have met your wife and could be reasonably certain that she is a kind and caring woman who has a particular passion for helping terminally ill children, I still wouldn´t believe you if you told me that she cured a child who had terminal brain cancer, with a spell that she learned in her witch coven – no matter how consistent that would be with her character afaict, I wouldn´t believe it for one second.

            I’m pretty sure that Jesus cares more that you trust him than accede to this or that.

            You can only trust someone who you actually know, in that sense, it is undeniably true that Jesus, if he exists and has the power to make himself known, does not actually care about me or anyone else trusting him.
            When christians ask non-christians to “put their trust in Jesus”, that´s not actually what they mean, what they mean is “you should put your trust in the interpretation of the Bible that [I, my church, my favorite apologist, my pastor] came up with”.

            Not again; it’s not 100% different. We’ve been over this. But anyhow: you’re dismissing all religious experiences as brain noise or something like that. Ok I guess, but that’s a lot of dismissing. If you’re going to wave away evidence like that, you can win any argument about fuzzy areas of life that are hard to characterize and figure out laws for.

            Ok, since this seems to be the central point in our disagreement, lets try to settle this. I´ll try to be as explicit as possible about what I mean re “relationships”.
            There are “actual relationships” and there are, for lack of a better word, “christianese-relationships”. Examples of the former would be my friends, family, colleagues, aquaintances (the two of us have an “actual relationship” in some sense) etc.pp.
            Examples for the latter can be any person that is real but that you have never met or interacted with in some other way (e.g. Barack Obama), or used to be real but are deceased (e.g. MLK) or people that are fictional (e.g. Atticus Finch).
            What I mean by “completely different concepts”, is that there is no gray area between the two – nothing will ever change the fact that in the latter case, there is only one side that actually does something, and only the former case has actual interaction instead of just action.
            Both kinds of relationships can obviously vary in strength, but one will never turn into the other – no matter how much you are inspired, enlightened and fascinated by the person of Winston Churchill, you will NEVER honestly believe that you have an actual relationship with him, not even if you devote most of your life on thinking, writing and reflecting on his personality and actions.
            Every human being with a grip on reality can tell the two categories apart without a shadow of a doubt. I mean “grip on reality” in an absolutely literal sense, not being able to do this would mean that you are insane – from a legal perspective (it would be a legal reason for you being not accountable for your actions) and from a clinical perspective (it would mean, at the very least, a mandatory psych evaluation).
            Note that I am not accusing christians of being insane or delusional or whatever (with some obvious exceptions). I am positively certain that christians can tell actual relationships from christianese relationships apart, with 100% accuracy – like everyone else can.
            What christians do however is trying to find creative ways to fool themselves into believing that their christianese relationship means as much / is worth as much as an actual relationship, and they hope that they will have an actual relationship with Jesus in some unspecified future, but they know the difference between the two categories just as well as everyone else does.
            I´m also not denying any religious experiences at all – but those experiences almost invariably either belong the category of christianese relationships or they are something completely different (e.g. a strong feeling of “inner peace”, or “becoming born again”).
            I am only aware of a handful of cases of a person claiming to have had a religious experience that would belong to the class of actual relationships, and for which none of the following is true:

            a) the person is or has been on trial for a violent crime and is or was pleading insanity.
            b) the person is long dead and only mentioned in ancient documents.
            c) the person is either demonstrably lying (e.g. Popoff) or is interacting with a God that is curiously completely and utterly indistinguishable from a con artist using cold reading techniques and other tricks to scam the rubes (e.g. Robertson).

            That was not the aunt’s error. She had tried to communicate with him, and failed. So she concluded that one could not communicate with him. Have you ever tried to talk to a severely autistic kid? It can be difficult, and impossible if you don’t know enough about how to communicate properly with him/her.

            She didn´t give him a way to express himself. And neither do you with God – it´s all you expressing stuff about God, never God expressing stuff about himself.

            But why treat any human being as a person, instead of as a set of brute facts about him/her? What you seem to say here is that you can take any and all brute facts collected into the symbol ‘God’, remove the symbol,

            You often say something along that line and I have no idea what you mean. I don´t know a God and I don´t know any “brute facts about God” – I cannot do what you describe here even if I wanted to.

            But if you examine your thoughts on the matter, you might just find that you’ve set up a false dichotomy: (a) I’m making shit up but am still largely rational; (b) I’m delusional and not sufficiently grounded in reality. This false dichotomy expressly excludes true communication with God. It sets up a lose-lose situation in terms of me arguing for human ↔ divine communication. And Andy, it really does seem like you’ve set me up to fail. You’ve inserted enough assumptions, such that I can never convince you that I am in any sort of communication with God.

            Furthermore, I can never convince you that perhaps you have sufficiently (i) many wrong beliefs; (ii) few right beliefs, for you to successfully hear from God.

            Of course not. Because you don´t claim that you “hear / communicate from / with God”. You “hearing from God” relates to “actually hearing” as “christianese relationship” relates to “actual relationship”.
            I don´t doubt that you “hear from God” in the christianese sense, I don´t believe for a second that you hear from God in the english sense, and neither do you.

            It is a lose-lose situation for me. You’ve won not by rational argumentation, but by cleverly, perhaps unwittingly, grounding yourself in certain ideas of what reality is like.

            Lets turn the table for a second.
            Imagine I claim that I have a relationship, an actual relationship, with Atticus Finch. I´m not claiming that I can speak to him or anything like that, but I think that when I think about him, he “replies” by inserting thoughts into my head. I know that Finch is fictional, but maybe enough people thought about him and wished that he were real, which then made him real because [insert some Deepak Chopra quantum-voodoo-wishing-from-the-universe-BS here] (if you grant me that possibility, I´ll grant you the possibility that Jesus inserts thoughts into your head).
            1. What would convince you that I am right?
            2. What would convince you that I might be wrong but that my belief in having an actual relationship with Atticus Finch is a warranted belief?
            I am serious. I don´t say this to mock your beliefs or anything like that. From my vantage point, it doesn´t seem as if I am unfairly stacking the deck against your beliefs, it seems to me as if I simply apply the standards that you rely on for every subject other than Jesus, to every subject including Jesus. And I´d like to see if that is just my impression or actually the case – that´s why I´d like to see your answers to the two questions above.

          • Luke Breuer

            Unfortunately I can´t because the DISQUS dashboard doesn´t seem to have a search function anymore.

            Yeah it’s retarded; everyone is complaining about it; I tweeted about it as my first tweet ever and @disqus responded, but just that they’re “listening”. Yeah. I’m looking to import all my comments into a searchable DB in the next week or two. I’ll let you know when I’ve done so; I’ll probably scrape all the discussions I’m in, including the entire threads, so it’d be at least somewhat useful to you.

            What I was referring to here and a few comments before that as well, was a conversation we had some weeks (months?) ago where you asked me for a demarcation between what I would consider to be evidence for a deity and evidence that doesn´t qualify for that.

            I gave you a list, you replied that none of the items would prove that it´s actually a deity instead of a super powerful alien, and I replied that I don´t see any meaningful difference between the two concepts and consider them to be identical from a purely pragmatic point of view.

            I vaguely remember this. Fricken Disqus. Do you recall to what extent you got at the gray areas? I mean, we can imagine big, powerful things like arranging some stars to spell out John 3:16. But what about more subtle things? I’m more interested in what would start to look like an English-relationship instead of a Christianese-relationship, vs. what would display power/trustworthiness/etc.

            As an example, imagine you said “God is all around us” and I ask “what does that mean? How would the world be any different if that statement were false?” – if you would not be able to answer the latter question (which essentially amounts to “what does your claim deny?”), then your claim “God is all around us” is not unfalsifiable, it is meaningless, it quite literally carries no semantic meaning. It would be “unfalsifiable” if you could answer the question “how would the world be different if this were false?”, but the differences you point out cannot be tested with out current capabilities. And modern theology is full of such meaningless sentences, theologians have pretty much turned this into an art form.

            You realize that unfalsifiable ⇏ meaningless, right? That’s why I linked you to Polanyi & crystallography.

            As to what my theology denies, I think it denies plenty with these three triads of passages. These passages give possible answers to my Phil.SE question, Are there laws which govern minds? Do you agree? If so, it would seem that you would deny that God has anything to do with all this. Is this correct?

            I agree with you 100% as to this art form. It seems to me that you’ve let this art form completely shape how you view theology, instead of merely coming to the conclusion that some theology is like this. I remind you that I’m a very practical person. I quote Feynman on my website: “What I cannot create, I cannot understand.” And yet, I deeply know what it is like to be treated as less than a person, for that was done to me for the first twenty-one years of my life. Science doesn’t do ‘personhood’. That’s strictly in the realm of philosophy and theology. There’s a neat Veritas Forum on this topic: 2013-11-26 What Makes Us Human? with Rosalind Picard and Joshua Knobe.

            You can´t even demonstrate that there is a God to begin with

            This cuts me off at the knees. Shall I bring up the GPS signal encoding example again, and show you how if you don’t let me construct a receiver with the proper correlation code, I won’t actually be able to demonstrate receiving a GPS signal? If you demand evidence that God exists without letting the grid through which you view reality be altered, then you will win.

            This analogy does not work on any level.

            No, it doesn’t work when you take it in ridiculous directions, as you did. Communication is nigh impossible when one’s interlocutor does this, instead of charitable interpretation.

            You can only trust someone who you actually know, in that sense, it is undeniably true that Jesus, if he exists and has the power to make himself known, does not actually care about me or anyone else trusting him.

            Because if he did, he would do things your way? That is, the grid through which you view reality is sufficiently correct?

            When christians ask non-christians to “put their trust in Jesus”, that´s not actually what they mean, what they mean is “you should put your trust in the interpretation of the Bible that [I, my church, my favorite apologist, my pastor] came up with”.

            For many, this many well be true. On the other hand, it is possible to teach people what God’s voice is like. Think of it as tuning an antenna. If both good and evil spiritual beings are attempting to communicate, it is important to disassociate between the two. For example, I’ve had to work hard to fight self-hatred. For a long time, my view of God had him contributing to the self-hatred.

            Surely you’ve experienced situations in which you said something to someone and he/she took it precisely the wrong way? What are you to do, except either (i) find a better way to speak to that person, or (ii) not speak to him/her, at least on so direct a level? Here, I am strongly claiming that God communicates to us via our holistic belief system; he doesn’t just magically insert sentences into our heads. This is now how we understand cognition to work, and I believe God works at the subtlest of levels (this may be infinitely subtle). He will always be deniable for those who wish to disbelieve. Or do you think those who wanted to kill him after all his miracles are unrealistic portraits of humans?

            What I mean by “completely different concepts”, is that there is no gray area between the two – nothing will ever change the fact that in the latter case, there is only one side that actually does something, and only the former case has actual interaction instead of just action.

            And what of the situation where you read about someone and then meet him/her? Can it be the case that reading about him/her helps when you finally meet up? This is why I see gray area. Furthermore, in reading John Eldredge’s Walking with God, it is interesting to see how gradually he claims Jesus spoke to him. For a long time, he got simply “my love”. He explains how this led to an incredible amount of inner healing. He gives other examples. If anything is in the gray area, it is a very simple repeated phrase that one senses isn’t quite from oneself, because it is in opposition to one’s entire psyche—at least in Eldredge’s case, here.

            You seem to think that communication with God is either like the conversation you and I are having, or nothing whatosever. This is what allows you to have “no gray area between the two“. At least, it seems that way; this doesn’t account for your insistence of proving ontic existence before moving forward. I suppose that is to ensure that one isn’t just talking to oneself in one’s brain?

            Both kinds of relationships can obviously vary in strength, but one will never turn into the other – no matter how much you are inspired, enlightened and fascinated by the person of Winston Churchill, you will NEVER honestly believe that you have an actual relationship with him, not even if you devote most of your life on thinking, writing and reflecting on his personality and actions.

            It’s a bit hard to make the comparison when Churchill was a human and Jesus is allegedly God

            Every human being with a grip on reality can tell the two categories apart without a shadow of a doubt.

            This is only the case because you don’t think God would communicate to people as I briefly described about with Eldredge. You have some beliefs as to what is possible and impossible that don’t actually seem to be based on the evidence, but on your imagination. And yet, if one of God’s goals is for our wholeness, the “my love” thing makes perfect sense as a starting point!

            What christians do however is trying to find creative ways to fool themselves into believing that their christianese relationship means as much / is worth as much as an actual relationship, and they hope that they will have an actual relationship with Jesus in some unspecified future, but they know the difference between the two categories just as well as everyone else does.

            More flat-out denial of religious experience. “Respect all of the evidence, except that evidence.” It is easy to set up universal priors which never let one detect an omni-deity. People do it all the time.

            I´m also not denying any religious experiences at all

            Yes, you are, categorically, in no uncertain terms, time and again. I cannot conceive of how you think you aren’t denying religious experience. It’s almost as if this is your Gödel sentence.

            She didn´t give him a way to express himself. And neither do you with God – it´s all you expressing stuff about God, never God expressing stuff about himself.

            Ahah, but how do you, Andy, know if you’re giving God a way to express himself? (I just love how I’m treating God as an autistic kid. I actually think we’re the autistic ones, but hey. Symmetry is weird, yo.) If I try and understand what God is like a la Richard Hamming’s You and Your Research, I actually do find out things. The three triads I linked above are examples. I could provide others. My vision of the best relationship possible with another being is to be on the same team together, enhancing each other, discovering cool and awesome things, making cool and awesome things, all to make reality more fantastic and wonderful. Is this not an excellent description of [at least crucial elements to] an English-relationship?

            You often say something along that line and I have no idea what you mean. I don´t know a God and I don´t know any “brute facts about God” – I cannot do what you describe here even if I wanted to.

            What’s the difference between a person and an object? In my mind, an object is what can be studied extensively by science and characterized completely. A person, on the other hand, cannot be characterized completely. Indeed, one of the most fascinating properties of human beings is that they can game any system. I love it when Jonathan posts new facts about why humans make decisions various ways, because as soon as we learn this stuff, we can then change what decisions are made. This property is very present in Hari Seldon’s Psychohistory: people must not be aware of what predictions are being made, or they will change their behaviors.

            My point here is that science is so-constructed as to never realize that what it is studying is a person and not an object. So when you ask for ‘evidence’ that a personal deity exists, I cannot give it to you in the domain of science. It is logically impossible. Instead, I have to engage that ineffable sense that you and most if not all humans have, of the other entity being a person, and not just a thing. This is why I think personally interacting with God is key to knowing he is God, and not just Einstein’s God. You can certainly tentatively trust other people’s personhood-sense, but ultimately, you’ve gotta experience it yourself, or it ain’t real.

            As to my “brute facts” statement: objects can be exhaustively characterized by a finite set of brute facts; I do not think people can be. Now, they can be potentially infinite in description (infinitely many non-RE axioms); I get at this above, when I say that as they are characterized and those characterizations are known to them, they change, right under the microscope. Only if you treat them as objects without understanding can you completely comprehend them, and at this point you’ve dehumanized them!

            Have you ever wondered what it would take to convert a robot from non-person to person? What would give it that “spark of life”? It is this spark, this breath, this spirit, which differentiates person from non-person. It is crucial in our discussion about God as impersonal set of laws vs. God as personal being.

            Of course not. Because you don´t claim that you “hear / communicate from / with God”.

            I didn’t until the end of the comment to which I was responding. Why? Because I couldn’t characterize it well enough until then. You seem to have totally ignored that section. Perhaps you think I’m simply mentally ill?

          • Andy_Schueler

            No time to reply to all of this today, so I´ll pick out one part.

            Because if he did, he would do things your way? That is, the grid through which you view reality is sufficiently correct?

            This makes me somewhat angry, because we´ve been there already, because it is completely dishonest, and because you are using cult methods – what you do here could be right out of the scientology playbook.

            Lets recap that:
            Believer: Dude, you have to meet this guy Jessy, he is the best man you can imagine and he cares deeply about you and would love to be your friend!
            Non-believer: Cool, I guess, so where is this Jessy?
            Believer: He obviously can´t just introduce himself to you, he is a Gentleman, you have to meet him in another way.
            Non-believer: Erm… ok, so how do I meet this Jessy then?
            Believer: What you have to do is read this book about Jessy and then you have to choose to believe that this stuff actually happened, but you have to believe it in the right way, else it won´t work.
            Non-believer: WTF? What does this have to do with being friends with someone? Have you actually met Jessy?
            Believer: I think I do, I think about Jessy often and sometimes, I believe that Jessy inserts thoughts about himself into my head, that´s how deep our friendship is.
            Non-believer: What the hell? That has nothing to do with a relationship, you are just thinking about a guy that has been written about in some book.
            Believer: Oh you are so dogmatic! How could I possibly prove that Jessy is real and wants to be your friend if you cut me off at the knees like that?? Don´t you realize that Jessy can´t just come to you on your terms?? He really cares about you after all, so you have to choose to believe what I believe about him and then you can meet Jessy.
            Non-believer: That doesn´t even begin to make sense on any level, most importantly you have never actually met Jessy yourself, you just believe that he inserts thoughts into your head.

            And now tell me, was this an unfair caricature of your position? If you think it is, then we are simply unable to communicate properly – I don´t want to mock you and I honestly don´t try to misrepresent you, this is exactly the meaning that I get when I try to understand what you want to say.

          • Luke Breuer

            This makes me somewhat angry, because we´ve been there already, because it is completely dishonest, and because you are using cult methods – what you do here could be right out of the scientology playbook.

            Sharp knives are sharp.

            And now tell me, was this an unfair caricature of your position? If you think it is, then we are simply unable to communicate properly – I don´t want to mock you and I honestly don´t try to misrepresent you, this is exactly the meaning that I get when I try to understand what you want to say.

            It’s actually just fine when you don’t present in a way that imputes moral failure to me; when you say, “I cannot differentiate this A from that B”, this is a completely honest thing to do. It’s that little, tiny jump from “I cannot differentiate them” ⇒ “they are necessarily the same” which is the problematic step. It’s when one accuses the other person for stupidly possibly believing that there is a valid form of X that is the bad thing.

            I had a discussion with my atheist boss a year or two ago, when he was complaining about Christianity. I pointed out that he was actually just criticizing humans. Then he pointed to organized religion. I said that organized anything has these problems. He assented, and then said that charismatic religious leaders seem to be the most dangerous sort. I agreed, but pointed out that the most potent lies are the ones that contain the most truth.

            So, is there a form of this relationship-belief thing that isn’t cult-like? The long-time (35 year) mentor of the Christian fellowship I attended at university relayed stories of his rebuffing various attempts at cultic takeover of the fellowship. In one instance, a well-known Christian campus ministry succeeded in splitting the unified, campus-wide fellowship (small university) into two factions. This ministry decided that instead of an egalitarian leadership model where leaders were elected out in the open, by equal voting of all members, there was a secretive “nomination committee”, which is strongly reminiscent of secretive priestly castes in history past. There are other stories, as well, of attempted takeovers of the Christian fellowship. So I know a bit about cults from secondhand experience, and even a bit of firsthand experience! (An outsider from a nearby seminary succeeded in destroying the Bible study of one of the dorms; that Bible study had to be rebuilt from the ground up, instead of being passed from upperclassmen to underclassmen.)

            The answer, as often, is found in the Bible:

            The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. (Acts 17:10-12)

            What made the Bereans more noble? They tested everything, against reality. The Christianity of the Bible is not a Gnostic Christianity, detached from reality, based on “secret knowledge”. No, it connects, intricately, as I mentioned recently with the three triads of passages which I can intricately connect to particle-and-field reality.

            A while ago, you identified two characteristics of successful utopias:

                 (i) homogeneity
                 (ii) isolation from the outside world

            These are needed for cults. (i) is roundly condemned by scripture; (ii) is obviously combated by calls to go out into the world, both to evangelize as well as to serve (e.g. Mt 25:31-46).

            If you aren’t precise in your criticism, your argument against what would cause cult-like behavior would also ban close relationships between people—for close relationships can shelter horrible abuse. When attempting to make it to my cousin’s funeral, my connecting flight from DTW &arr; SBN was canceled, and I was going to miss the visitation. I convinced four other folks at the airport to rent a car with me and make the three hour drive. During that drive, I had one of the most fascinating discussions of my life.

            The Midwesterner who drove the whole way was a Christian and a licensed clinical and forensic psychologist. Originally he was going to become a priest, and was a mere one year away from becoming one when he dropped out and switched to psychology. He told me the following facts, which are utterly condemning of at least some swath of the Roman Catholic Church:

            Psychology training: relational intimacy can easily lead to sexual stuff
            Priesthood training: no information given on the topic

            Holy, holy, holy fucking shit. And then there’s another detail. When this guy interviewed psychologists accused of misconduct, he’d start the interview with: “Did you have sex with your client?” If the answer were “yes”, the interview would be over and the person would be fired. Period. No debate. Holy shit! The standards of psychologists were higher than those of [some] priests! Both groups of people were tasked with taking care of people at the deepest levels, and yet the worldly one was better equipping its people to avoid abusing the intimacy.

            The Christian ought to understand this tendency, and reinforce the idea that one can have relational intimacy without there being any hint of a sexual component. This is very hard in our day and age, because the two have become virtually synonymous—at least in some places. And yet, the ideal is for anyone to be able to have this kind of deep relationship with the next person, without sexuality being even a factor.

            So anyhow, I want to completely affirm the dangers which are well-established in cults throughout time. But I want to completely deny that these dangers are necessary consequences of what I am espousing. Instead, we must be ever-vigilant, as the Bible makes clear time and time and time again.

          • Andy_Schueler

            On to the remaining stuff:

            You realize that unfalsifiable ⇏ meaningless, right?

            It kind of baffles me that you have to ask that again, NO that´s not my point, never was my point and I didn´t say or imply it in any way.

            This cuts me off at the knees. Shall I bring up the GPS signal encoding example again, and show you how if you don’t let me construct a receiver with the proper correlation code, I won’t actually be able to demonstrate receiving a GPS signal? If you demand evidence that God exists without letting the grid through which you view reality be altered, then you will win.

            I don´t demand it at all, what I pointed out is that it is one of the reasons for why the analogy I criticized doesn´t work.

            For many, this many well be true. On the other hand, it is possible to teach people what God’s voice is like. Think of it as tuning an antenna. If both good and evil spiritual beings are attempting to communicate, it is important to disassociate between the two. For example, I’ve had to work hard to fight self-hatred. For a long time, my view of God had him contributing to the self-hatred.

            So christianese-tuning of a christianese-antenna to allow christianese-communication.

            Surely you’ve experienced situations in which you said something to someone and he/she took it precisely the wrong way? What are you to do, except either (i) find a better way to speak to that person, or (ii) not speak to him/her, at least on so direct a level? Here, I am strongly claiming that God communicates to us via our holistic belief system; he doesn’t just magically insert sentences into our heads. This is now how we understand cognition to work, and I believe God works at the subtlest of levels (this may be infinitely subtle). He will always be deniable for those who wish to disbelieve. Or do you think those who wanted to kill him after all his miracles are unrealistic portraits of humans?

            I´m positively certain that most of this is an example of theo-speak, stuff that sounds like propositions without actually asserting anything – how would the world be any different if God would not communicate with you via your entire belief system in the subtlest possibly infinitely subtle, way?

            “He will always be deniable for those who wish to disbelieve.”

            – plenty of atheists want to believe in a God similar to your conception of God, so this point is irrelevant.

            And what of the situation where you read about someone and then meet him/her?

            We can talk about that right after you´ve met Jesus, until then this is a red herring.

            You seem to think that communication with God is either like the conversation you and I are having, or nothing whatosever.

            No, I´m saying that it is either christianese communication or actual communication – we can distinguish between the two with complete accuracy.

            It’s a bit hard to make the comparison when Churchill was a human and Jesus is allegedly God…

            1. So employing metaphors about human-human relationships are useful when you think they help you make your point, but when they don´t then humans and jesus are OBVIOUSLY not comparable. Chose one of the two – either retract all metaphors you used involving human-human relationships or accept this metaphor as valid, otherwise you are using yet another double standard.

            2. This comes close to an admission of the double standard I have been accusing you of many times – you seem to believe that what I describe is reasonable in every conceivable case, unless we start talking about Jesus, then we have to throw our standards out of the window and make up new ones that BOTH OF US would consider to be absolutely ridiculous in any non-Jesus situation. The only difference between our reasoning here is that I don´t apply a double standard for Jesus.

            Every human being with a grip on reality can tell the two categories apart without a shadow of a doubt.

            This is only the case because you don’t think God would communicate to people as I briefly described about with Eldredge. You have some beliefs as to what is possible and impossible that don’t actually seem to be based on the evidence, but on your imagination. And yet, if one of God’s goals is for ourwholeness, the “my love” thing makes perfect sense as a starting point!

            Don´t make it about my beliefs, I´ll grant you everything you want for the sake of the argument – it doesn´t change the fact that you are applying a standard to Jesus that you would immediatly reject if it were about any other person. The problem is not my beliefs, the problem is your double standard.

            More flat-out denial of religious experience. “Respect all of the evidence, except that evidence.”

            A dishonest accusation that doesn´t follow from anything I wrote. I am NOT denying any religious experience, this is your description of some of your religious experiences:

            “If I try and understand what God is like a la Richard Hamming’s You and Your Research, I actually do find out things. The three triads I linked above are examples. I could provide others. My vision of the best relationship possible with another being is to be on the same team together, enhancing each other, discovering cool and awesome things, making cool and awesome things, all to make reality more fantastic and wonderful. Is this not an excellent description of [at least crucial elements to] an English-relationship?”
            => And I believe you. I believe you that you described your experiences in this respect in at least mostly accurate way. I don´t deny any aspect of it, and why should I?
            My point is simple, if this counts as evidence for you having an actual relationship with Jesus instead of a christianese one, but you don´t accept my claims of having an actual relationship with Sophie Scholl, MLK and Atticus Finch (to name just three examples) then you are simply fooling yourself. What you describe falls fully in the realm of christianese relationships, people do experience that, they experiences it about plenty of people other than Jesus – and they can distinguish between those christianese relationships and their actual relationships with 100% accuracy, never mistaking the former for the letter or the other way around. And now you come along and want to count your christianese relationship as an actual one although you would immediatly reject the line of reasoning you employ if it were about anyone other than Jesus.
            It is an irrational double standard.

            Ahah, but how do you, Andy, know if you’re giving God a way to express himself?

            Given that I don´t know “God”, how am I supposed to answer that question other than “no idea, how could I possibly know?”?

            (I just love how I’m treating God as an autistic kid. I actually think we’re the autistic ones, but hey.

            It is a little shocking how casually you rationalize this away – “that´s weird, but it´s God so what the hell”.

            I didn’t until the end of the comment to which I was responding. Why? Because I couldn’t characterize it well enough until then. You seem to have totally ignored that section.

            I acknowledge all of that and believe you completely. Still, you “hear” in a christianese sense, not an actual one, so I don´t see how that would affect any of the points I made.

            Perhaps you think I’m simply mentally ill?

            I start to get the impression that you actually want me to say that…
            But no, I don´t consider you to be mentally ill or anything like that,

          • Luke Breuer

            It kind of baffles me that you have to ask that again, NO that´s not my point, never was my point and I didn´t say or imply it in any way.

            Sigh. If you’re going to throw veiled accusations of my alleged incompetence at understanding you, then I’m going to retrace the steps in detail.

            Andy: (which essentially amounts to “what does your claim deny?”)

            Have you read Karl Popper’s The Logic of Scientific Discovery? In it, he introduces falsification via arguing for scientific theories which are theories precisely because they deny that most possible worlds will obtain. In this model, if you can present evidence of something the theory has denied, you have falsified it. So perhaps you can see that I, by having a grounding in the history of the philosophy of science, could very easily take your claim and interpret it how I did. Maybe you can no longer be baffled, or articulate your baffledness? If you don’t, I predict you will again be baffled, we’ll annoy each other, make this less fun, etc.

            I don´t demand it at all, what I pointed out is that it is one of the reasons for why the analogy I criticized doesn´t work.

            This is a standard atheist/skeptic tactic: as the theist is arguing for God existing and acting in the world, pepper the conversation with “no your god doesn’t exist” or “what’s the evidence for god?” If you did not mean to do so, then know that you fit in fantastically with the standard atheist/skeptic model. It is also incredibly frustrating, to be working on an argument, and get that statement or that question thrown out. Why did you do it? Why was it necessary? Obviously my whole argument fails if no deity exists. Obviously. Why point it out, except to poke and prick and annoy?

            So christianese-tuning of a christianese-antenna to allow christianese-communication.

            Which becomes English- if there’s an actual being out there that you have to have (i) sufficiently many right beliefs; (ii) sufficiently few wrong beliefs, to communicate with in anything other than the most boring basic ways—ways in which we’ll soon ‘communicate’ with robots. I’ve established that this is a very legitimate pattern when it comes to autistic kids. In watching the Rosalind Picard and Joshua Knobe Veritas forum, Picard noted that she often ran across humans who considered some of the humans Picard works with not-people, because they are not normal somehow. Instead, they’re more like predictable entities, apparently. Well, maybe we reduce God to a ‘predictable entity’ by being sufficiently dumb. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t exist, it means we’re being dumb. I don’t know how I can make this more clear, Andy!

            I´m positively certain that most of this is an example of theo-speak, stuff that sounds like propositions without actually asserting anything – how would the world be any different if God would not communicate with you via your entire belief system in the subtlest possibly infinitely subtle, way?

            Before we go there, could you please at least demonstrate that you understood the first part of what I said, that it’s sensible? I’m having a really hard time figuring out what parts of my argument you understand and see as valid, and what parts you reject. It’s just incredibly difficult, because you don’t really affirm much of importance. It’s more like I just get the occasional FAIL, in the form of “your God doesn’t exist”.

            “He will always be deniable for those who wish to disbelieve.”

            – plenty of atheists want to believe in a God similar to your conception of God, so this point is irrelevant.

            Plenty of atheists want a God whom they can get to do things for them. Some of these things would be good things, and some bad things. But God isn’t there to just do things for us, according to our skewed perceptions of how the world (a) is; (b) ought to be. To the extent we have (a-b) wrong, God will correct them. But not necessarily via verbal, propositional communication. That doesn’t always work; sometimes words get “burnt out”, as Peter Hitchens talks about in The Rage Against God. When that happens, something non-propositional is required. And it is here you probably say that one is no longer having a relationship: if there’s no propositional communication, there can be no relationship. Except that makes no sense, unless you want to insist that words cannot be “burnt out”, their denotations destroyed and/or completely severed from their connotations.

            We can talk about that right after you´ve met Jesus, until then this is a red herring.

            If we let you control this conversation to suit your whims, you will ‘win’.

            1. So employing metaphors about human-human relationships are useful when you think they help you make your point, but when they don´t then humans and jesus are OBVIOUSLY not comparable. Chose one of the two – either retract all metaphors you used involving human-human relationships or accept this metaphor as valid, otherwise you are using yet another double standard.

            You mean metaphors and analogies DON’T WORK PERFECTLY? Color me surprised.

            2. This comes close to an admission of the double standard I have been accusing you of many times – you seem to believe that what I describe is reasonable in every conceivable case, unless we start talking about Jesus, then we have to throw our standards out of the window and make up new ones that BOTH OF US would consider to be absolutely ridiculous in any non-Jesus situation. The only difference between our reasoning here is that I don´t apply a double standard for Jesus.

            I think it is because you think the only kind of valid communication is kennen-type communication, instead of consider that wissen-type communication is also true communication. Wissen-type communication isn’t always even in words.

            Every human being with a grip on reality can tell the two categories apart without a shadow of a doubt.

            Really? So if you take one person who just lost his wife and feels Jesus’ presence, and another person who just lost her husband and is all alone, then the dude is just hallucinating? You have split the idea of a person up into two separate parts, Andy. You’ve split people up into their (1) intellectual, analytical part, and (2) their holistic, fuzzy, makes-them-a-person part. And you are saying that if you cannot communicate to the (1)-part, it’s not true communication. At least, this is how I’m modeling you, this is how I can explain your claim that there is a huge gulf between Christianese-relationships and English-relationships. There is no huge gulf; there is a terrific amount of gray area.

            My point is simple, if this counts as evidence for you having an actual relationship with Jesus instead of a christianese one, but don´t accept my claims of having an actual relationship with Sophie Scholl, MLK and Atticus Finch (to name just three examples) then you are simply fooling yourself.

            Your ability to grow, from these relationships, is bounded and finite, because what is left over by these people is bounded and finite. If my ability to grow as a result of my relationship with Jesus is not bounded and finite, then this is a crucial difference.

            Given that I don´t know “God”, how am I supposed to answer that question other than “no idea, how could I possibly know?”?

            Well, the aunt could ask my friend how he was able to communicate with her autistic nephew, since my friend was able to do it and she couldn’t. Seems reasonable to me!

            It is a little shocking how casually you rationalize this away – “that´s weird, but it´s God so what the hell”.

            Look up God & repenting. It’s very biblical.

            I acknowledge all of that and believe you completely. Still, you “hear” in a christianese sense, not an actual one, so I don´t see how that would affect any of the points I made.

            At this point in time, I am again having trouble. You say I can’t have an English-relationship with Jesus because he doesn’t exist. But also there’s this bit that if I cannot introduce Jesus to you and you have a [verbal,] propositional conversation with him, that Jesus doesn’t exist, because obviously I would be able to do this if he existed. (Is this wrong? I know I’ve said this multiple times, but I don’t know if you’ve rejected it as accurately modeling your position.)

            Some folks would even say that Jesus left a mark on Sophie Scholl, MLK, and Atticus Finch, so that it’s great if you learn some about him through them. But there is always more to learn, Jesus would say. He is unfathomable, and yet loves to be further fathomed. I might agree. Unlike many Christians, I believe that one’s relationship with God can be analyzed into more and more details (as I’ve been increasingly done in our conversations—thanks for helping me do so), instead of kept fuzzy as I’m sure you’re well aware of people doing.

            One reason I can break down relationships like this is because for a good chunk of my life, I was treated as less-than-human. One result of this is that I was able to discern the difference between the less-than-human aspect of communication (pure rationality) and fully-human communication (rationality + purpose). If you don’t give a shit about the purpose of another human when you interact with him/her, you are dehumanizing him/her. If you do not hold out hope for another human’s ability to be rational, you are also dehumanizing him/her.

            Science is the view of God’s rationality, from the ground-up. If one things this is all reality, then reality is a sophisticated machine. But we have this people-sense (discussed wonderfully in that Veritas forum, from two opposing sides). I claim that the people-sense is that you know other people have purposes which are potentially infinite in description. And it is wondrous to help others achieve their purposes. It is even more wonderful to combine purposes with others, not so that they all become identical, but so that they dance, in unity & diversity. This would be the heterogeneity in contrast to the homogeneity thought to be required for stable utopias. The doctrine of the Trinity actually gets at this; nonsensical though it may seem, the problem of unity & diversity, of universals & particulars, is plagued us since the beginning of philosophy. For Christianity to place a ‘solution’ (shrouded in mystery, no matter how much about it is understood) at the core of itself is profound, I think.

            I believe God would talk to you both propositionally (rationally) and holistically (purpose) if you were to open yourself up to wrongness in your beliefs, and willingness to pursue God’s purposes—which I believe he created you to fulfill anyhow (Eph 2:10). It would be easy to mistake the rational bit as just you doing science, but there’s the person-person interaction, the intertwining of purpose and all the emotion that goes along with such intertwining and advancement. But how do I describe this part? It’s tricky. I’ve tried, and if you aren’t too frustrated with me, I’ll probably be able to clarify further in later comments.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Have you read Karl Popper’s The Logic of Scientific Discovery? In it, he introduces falsification via arguing for scientific theories which are theories precisely because they deny that most possible worlds will obtain. In this model, if you can present evidence of something the theory has denied, you have falsified it. So perhaps you can see that I, by having a grounding in the history of the philosophy of science, could very easily take your claim and interpret it how I did.

            I replied and clarified the difference between falsifiability and meaninglessness after you parsed a comment of mine in this way. And then you simply ignore the clarification and lecture me again on a point that I never made.

            That kind of baffled me because I don´t understand how you could read that meaning into what I wrote and a clarification following that unless you simply ignored the clarification.

            This is a standard atheist/skeptic tactic: as the theist is arguing for God existing and acting in the world, pepper the conversation with “no your god doesn’t exist” or “what’s the evidence for god?” If you did not mean to do so, then know that you fit in fantastically with the standard atheist/skeptic model. It is also incredibly frustrating, to be working on an argument, and get that statement or that question thrown out. Why did you do it? Why was it necessary? Obviously my whole argument fails if no deity exists. Obviously. Why point it out, except to poke and prick and annoy?

            Because at some point, the sheer number of unwarranted assumptions becomes simply overwhelming. When you design a metaphor that assumes not only that there is a God, but also that plenty of things are actually known about that God, then I think it is necessary to remind you that you actually haven´t established any of that. Granting you that there is a God for the sake of the argument and granting you some vague qualities about him also for the sake of the argument, I can deal with – but when you then start pretending to have detailed knowledge of particularities re Gods desires, actions and alleged revelations – then you have literally brought in an entire truckload of assumptions and don´t even try to demonstrate that any one of them is actually true.

            Plenty of atheists want a God whom they can get to do things for them. Some of these things would be good things, and some bad things. But God isn’t there to just do things for us,

            That is first of all incredibly presumptous of you and secondly, you are simply making stuff up – demonstrate that there is any relevant difference in the distribution of different God concepts that people actually do believe in compared to the distribution of God concepts that people would like to believe in but can´t.

            To the extent we have (a-b) wrong, God will correct them.

            That is an empirical claim which would be trivially easy to demonstrate, there would then be no disagreements about a-b among christians. So this is empirically false.

            That doesn’t always work; sometimes words get “burnt out”, as Peter Hitchens talks about in The Rage Against God. When that happens, something non-propositional is required. And it is here you probably say that one is no longer having a relationship: if there’s no propositional communication, there can be no relationship. Except that makes no sense, unless you want to insist that words cannot be “burnt out”, their denotations destroyed and/or completely severed from their connotations.

            That is gibberish to me. What does “burning out a word” mean? Give a specific example. .

            You mean metaphors and analogies DON’T WORK PERFECTLY? Color me surprised.

            Strawman. My point was that human-human interactions either are valid for metaphors or analogies or they are not, if they are only valid when they help you make a point but automatically invalid when they make a point for me – then I will simply reject all of your metaphors and analogies involving human-human relationships out of hand, either they are valid, at least in principle, or they are not.

            I think it is because you think the only kind of valid communication is kennen-type communication, instead of consider that wissen-type communication is also true communication. Wissen-type communication isn’t always even in words.

            Doesn´t follow from anything I wrote and that is not my point. Nonverbal communication is a thing, absolutely, and I never did and never will confuse actual nonverbal communication with christianese nonverbal communication, just like you never would, unless its about Jesus.

            Really? So if you take one person who just lost his wife and feels Jesus’ presence, and another person who just lost her husband and is all alone, then the dude is just hallucinating?

            What about feeling the presence of his deceased wife? Would that be evidence for her not actually being dead but rather roaming around the house as a ghost?
            People do experience things like that, people sometimes experience the “presence” of a deceased loved one, and you can also feel something like one of your personal heroes being around you / supporting you / whatever – even if those personal heroes happen to be dead or fictional.
            So, yet another double standard for Jesus (just how many could one person possibly need?)

            You have split the idea of a person up into two separate parts, Andy. You’ve split people up into their (1) intellectual, analytical part, and (2) their holistic, fuzzy, makes-them-a-person part.

            I don´t.

            And you are saying that if you cannot communicate to the (1)-part, it’s not true communication.

            Never said that and its not my point. My point is, was and will always be – that this kind of “communication” happens in ALL christianese relationships and you completely agree with me that it is in no way, shape or form evidence for the relationship not being a christianese one but rather an actual one – unless its about Jesus, because double standards for the win.

            At least, this is how I’m modeling you, this is how I can explain your claim that there is a huge gulf between Christianese-relationships and English-relationships. There is no huge gulf; there is a terrific amount of gray area.

            I´m positively certain that you are misrepresenting your own position here, because I would bet that you completely agree with me re actual relationships and christianese ones as long as its not about Jesus.
            So I´ll repeat some previous questions:

            “Lets turn the table for a second. Imagine I claim that I have a relationship, an actual relationship, with Atticus Finch. I´m not claiming that I can speak to him or anything like that, but I think that when I think about him, he “replies” by inserting thoughts into my head and stuff like that. I know that Finch is fictional, but maybe enough people thought about him and wished that he were real, which then made him real because [insert some Deepak Chopra quantum-voodoo-wishing-from-the-universe-BS here] (if you grant me that possibility, I´ll grant you the possibility that Jesus can magically inserts thoughts into your head or “interact with you holistically”, whatever that means).
            1. What would convince you that I am right?
            2. What would convince you that I might be wrong but that my belief in having an actual relationship with Atticus Finch is a warranted belief?
            3. If I become an absolutely brilliant legal scholar or a supreme court judge who is widely considered to be the most wise and just person who has ever held such a position, and I credit my relationship with Atticus Finch as the single most important influence for that, would you consider that to be evidence for me having an actual relationship with Atticus Finch instead of a christianese one? ”
            => Please answer them.

            Your ability to grow, from these relationships, is bounded and finite, because what is left over by these people is bounded and finite. If my ability to grow as a result of my relationship with Jesus is not bounded and finite, then this is a crucial difference.

            The bounds are exactly the same as they are in your christianese relationship with Jesus – whatever your imagination is capable of, just like you can ask “What would Jesus do / say?” someone else can ask the same thing of MLK, explain how there is any qualitative difference here between the Jesus case and any other christianese relationship without begging the question.

            Well, the aunt could ask my friend how he was able to communicate with her autistic nephew, since my friend was able to do it and she couldn’t. Seems reasonable to me!

            Indeed. If the aunt would ask you to completely redefine what a “relationship” and “communication” mean. and essentially substitute the christianese meaning for the actual one, but also to only do that for her nephew, then it doesn´t seem to be reasonable to me at all. Especially if the aunt completely agrees with you that actual relationships and christianese ones are different UNLESS you talk about her nephew, then it´s obviously all completely different.

            At this point in time, I am again having trouble. You say I can’t have an English-relationship with Jesus because he doesn’t exist.

            Strawman. I never said or implied that in any way. I totally acknowledge that you COULD have one, but you don´t have one – you simply don´t, I take your descriptions of what your religious experiences are at face value, believe that you are completely honest about them, and point out that both of us would consider that to be a christianese relationship instead of an actual one in every case other than Jesus.

            But also there’s this bit that if I cannot introduce Jesus to you and you have a [verbal,] propositional conversation with him, that Jesus doesn’t exist, because obviously I would be able to do this if he existed. (Is this wrong? I know I’ve said this multiple times, but I don’t know if you’ve rejected it as accurately modeling your position.)

            No. I´m totally serious about us being able to distinguish between actual relationships and christianese ones with 100% accuracy, I never mistook the former for the latter or the other way around. And not only because one involves verbal communication and the other doesn´t,

            I believe God would talk to you both propositionally (rationally) and holistically (purpose) if you were to open yourself up to wrongness in your beliefs,

            I don´t doubt that for a second. In the christianese sense of “talk”.

            It would be easy to mistake the rational bit as just you doing science, but there’s the person-person interaction, the intertwining of purpose and all the emotion that goes along with such intertwining and advancement.

            There is no “easy to mistake here” – you can distinguish between an actual relationship and a christianese relationship with 100% accuracy, just like everyone else can. All you do is trying to find ways for arguing how a christianese relationship can be equivalent to an actual one and that it can be evidence of the “other side” being real, but you only do that for Jesus and reject it out of hand for everyone else.

          • Luke Breuer

            I replied and clarified the difference between falsifiability and meaninglessness after you parsed a comment of mine in this way. And then you simply ignore the clarification and lecture me again on a point that I never made.

            That kind of baffled me because I don´t understand how you could read that meaning into what I wrote and a clarification following that unless you simply ignored the clarification.

            Once more, let’s revisit; I insist you are talking about falsification, even if you don’t realize it. I will show why, by connecting your statements to Karl Popper’s.

            Andy: You are inserting references to God, which sound like propositions but actually are none (because they don´t deny anything) in claims about completely mundane things, and those claims would not lose any semantic content if the God references were simply removed.

            Luke: When you said “(because they don´t deny anything)”, what did you mean, if not “(because you cannot falsify them)”?

            Andy: As an example, imagine you said “God is all around us” and I ask “what does that mean? How would the world be any different if that statement were false?” – if you would not be able to answer the latter question (which essentially amounts to “what does your claim deny?”), then your claim “God is all around us” is not unfalsifiable, it is meaningless, it quite literally carries no semantic meaning. It would be “unfalsifiable” if you could answer the question “how would the world be different if this were false?”, but the differences you point out cannot be tested with out current capabilities.

            Your statements come directly out of Karl Popper’s The Logic of Scientific Discovery, section 4, “The Problem of Demarcation”. There, he outlines the Positivist goal of declaring anything non-verifiable as literally meaningless. If the Positivist were to create such a “line of demarcation”, he could write off all metaphysics as meaningless and that would be that. Unfortunately for the positivist, his metaphysic lay on a self-defeating foundation, but in addition, it lay on never-fully-trustworthy induction.

            So, you switch from ‘verifiable’ → ‘falsifiable’ and try and establish anything as not-falsifiable as meaningless. In section 6, “Falsifiability as a Criterion of Demarcation”, we have that all “empirical or scientific” claims must be falsifiable. There is a very important bit in section 8, “Scientific Objectivity and Subjective Conviction”:

            Every experimental physicist knows those surprising and inexplicable apparent ‘effects’ which in his laboratory can perhaps even be reproduced for some time, but which finally disappear without trace. Of course, no physicist would say that in such a case that he had made a scientific discovery (though he might try to rearrange his experiments so as to make the effect reproducible). Indeed the scientifically significant physical effect may be defined as that which can be regularly reproduced by anyone who carries out the appropriate experiment in the way prescribed. No serious physicist would offer for publication, as a scientific discovery, any such ‘occult effect’, as I propose to call it – one for whose reproduction he could give no instructions. The ‘discovery’ would be only too soon rejected as chimerical, simply because attempts to test it would lead to negative results. (It follows that any controversy over the question whether events which are in principle unrepeatable and unique ever do occur cannot be decided by science: it would be a metaphysical controversy.) (23-24)

            The parenthesized portion at the end is extremely important. Whether or not we can do anything with such events outside of science is something that should be discussed at some point. But onward to section 10 “The Naturalistic Approach to the Theory of Method”:

            For nothing is easier than to unmask a problem as ‘meaningless’ or ‘pseudo’. All you have to do is fix upon a conveniently narrow meaning for ‘meaning’, and you will soon be bound to say of any inconvenient question that you are unable to detect any meaning in it. Moreover, if you admit as meaningful none except problems in natural science, any debate about the concept of ‘meaning’ will also turn out to be meaningless. (29-30)

            The real meat though, is in section 15 “Strictly Universal and Existential Statements”:

                The theories of natural science, and especially what we call natural laws, ahve the logical form of strictlly universal statements; thus they can be expressed in the form of negations of strictly existential statements or, as we may say, in the form of non-existence statements (or ‘there-is-not’ statements). For example, the law of the conservation of energy can be expressed in the form: ‘There is no perpetual motion machine’, or the hypothesis of the electrical elementary charge in the form: ‘There is no electrical charge other than a multiple of the electrical elementary charge.’
                In this formulation we see that natural laws might be compared to ‘proscriptions’ or ‘prohibitions’. They do not assert that something exists or is the case; they deny it. They insist ont he non-existence of certain things or states of affairs, proscribing or prohibiting, as it were, these things or states of affairs: they rule them out. And it is precisely because they do this that they are falsifiable. If we accept as true one singular statement which, as it were, infringes the prohibition by asserting the existence of a thing (or the occurrence of an event) ruled out by the law, then the law is refuted. (An instance would be, ‘In such-and-such a place, there is an apparatus which is a perpetual motion machine’.)
                Strictly existential statements, by contrast, cannot be falsified. No singular statement (that is to say, no ‘basic statement’, no statement of an observed event) can contradict the existential statement, ‘There are white ravens’. Only a universal statement could do this. On the basis of the criterion of demarcation here adopted I shall therefore have to treat strictly existential statements as non-empirical or ‘metaphysical’.) (48)

            1. “(because they don´t deny anything)” ⇒
            2. they cannot be falsified ⇒
            3. they are non-empirical ⇏
            4. they are meaningless

            Now, perhaps your 1. isn’t actually accurate. Your original statement was “How would the world be any different if that statement were false?”, which may not indeed “essentially amounts to “what does your claim deny?” Perhaps quite a lot is buried in that ‘essentially’. But I’m going to work with the parenthesized version for now, to show you that it is wrong.

            Your argument, strictly speaking, is:

            1. “(because they don´t deny anything)” ⇒
            4. they are meaningless

            This is simply not true; it is not a valid argument. The reason for adding 2. and 3. is to make the argument valid; Popper is a great resource to go to for this, because he tackles the idea of ‘meaninglessness’ head-on, and shows it to be the sham that it is, at least if you try and get there from 1.

            There’s a reason for my dive into an old philosophy of science text. Whether or not you think of an entity as a person or an object is not an empirical choice. Science knows about objects, not persons. You just get to make that choice throughout life: treat the other ugly bags of mostly water as entities to manipulated to maximize your personal goals, or fellow people, with whom you can work together to achieve a synthesis of all your goals. There are, of course, shades of gray.

            Likewise, you can view reality as created by an intelligent being, who has purposes (and is therefore a person), or you can treat it as having erupted through random chance, perhaps with some natural selection of universes (e.g. fecund universes), and then natural selection at at least the biological level. Some universe-creators would smite you for denying their personhood; others would not. It strikes me that a humble universe-creator would let you, Andy, choose whether to treat him as a person or an entity—a la Einstein’s God.

            The most fundamental choice we can make is whether to treat another person as a person or a thing. If there is meaningful free will, it shows up there most importantly. The freest choice we can make is to consider God as God, or deny him, shatter his personhood, and view the disassembled pieces as the impersonal laws of nature. And thus Romans 1:18-23 was written, with a focus on v21. Sadly, once we lose a grip on the full person that God is, we lose a full grip on what full personhood is, and hence v23.

            God veils himself to those who do not want him around. This is a lesson of Deut 5: the people asked Yahweh to not interface with them directly, and he acceded. The Israelites did not wish to be confronted with a deity who would tell them how they were in opposition to his purpose for the universe, including them as beings created in his image.

            Andy, the world is different if you believe God as described in the Bible exists, or if you believe that reality is fundamentally impersonal. It is different from your perspective, and what perspective you take impacts how you act in the world. But you demonstrably can look at the world either way. So what is there to deny? You can view third-world poor as sub-human or you can view them as full humans. What is there to deny? Self-fulfilling prophecies abound; our beliefs can powerfully shape reality. But before they’ve shaped anything, what is denied?

            I suppose you will see the above as mostly nonsense, meaninglessness. Alas. I tried.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Once more, let’s revisit; I insist you are talking about falsification, even if you don’t realize it.

            To quote myself:
            “Note that a claim like “a jewish preacher by the name of Jesus was senteced to death by Pontius Pilate, was executed and was raised from the dead” WOULD NOT BE MEANINGLESS in this sense because it clearly denies things, EVEN IF WE CANNOT TEST THEM STRICTLY.”
            How could I have made it any clearer that I am not saying, “not falsifiable” = “meaningless” when I even give a example of a claim that is not falsifiable AND not meaningless and why are you still not getting this?

            1. “(because they don´t deny anything)” ⇒

            4. they are meaningless

            This is simply not true

            It is true. Because every assertion denies at least one thing, it´s own negation, if a text denies nothing, then it cannot assert anything. It might look like it would contain a proposition or a set of propositions, but it doesn´t actually say anything – it´s meaningless.

            The most fundamental choice we can make is whether to treat another person as a person or a thing. If there is meaningful free will, it shows up theremost importantly. The freest choice we can make is to consider God as God, or deny him, shatter his personhood, and view the disassembled pieces as the impersonal laws of nature.

            So… a person created the laws of nature, but the laws of nature also ARE his “personhood” – makes total sense, when I create something, it´s completely obvious that my creation and my “personhood” are the same.
            Also, please explain how you choose to assemble the impersonal laws of nature into the “personhood of god” – be specific, what roles do the strong nuclear force and the conservation of angular momentum play in the “personhood of God” for example?

            And thus Romans 1:18-23 was written, with a focus on v21. Sadly, once we lose a grip on the full person that God is, we lose a full grip on what full personhood is, and hence v23.

            Yeah, non-christians are stupid, vile and generally subhuman in every way, we got the message.

            God veils himself to those who do not want him around.

            So you don´t want God around? Interesting.

          • Luke Breuer

            not falsifiable

            not falsifiable ≠ in principle not falsifiable

            I believe I erred in not properly choosing between the two above in my comments; my apologies. To to [re-]state the modified version:

            1. “(because they don´t deny anything)” ⇒
            2. they cannot be falsified in principle
            3. they are non-empirical ⇏
            4. they are meaningless

            It is true. Because every assertion denies at least one thing, it´s own negation, if a text denies nothing, then it cannot assert anything. It might look like it would contain a proposition or a set of propositions, but it doesn´t actually say anything – it´s meaningless.

            If I say God exists, you want to know what difference that makes, necessarily. I say no difference necessarily, because he allows his creatures so much freedom and is unwilling to override it except in unrepeatable ways. This creates a huge tension, for God is seemingly willing to let boundless evil happen. God is seemingly willing to let just about anything happen, although our understanding of physics says some things are highly improbable.

            I return to these three verses:

            “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Mt 5:43-48)

            A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn 13:34-35)

            “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (Jn 17:20-23)

            Andy, you know how you said that the only stable utopias are (i) homogenous; (ii) isolated from the rest of the world? Well, these passages militate against (i) quite thoroughly. Francis Schaeffer elaborates on these passages and related ones in his The Mark of the Christian. You will have to decide whether these passages “deny anything”. You would seem to say they do based on your utopias claim (they deny at least premise (i)). But that is only a probabilistic denial. Maybe that’s good enough?

            Jesus doesn’t say that miracles will convince. He says that unity in diversity will convince. Is that good enough for you? I’ve only really seen this “unity in diversity” in one place: my college Christian fellowship. But I have faith that I can be part of recreating that phenomenon. And this ‘faith’ is based on a combination of knowledge-how, and hope-that. Maybe I should separate it into ‘faith’ and ‘hope’, hmm…

            I do find the above to be a weird sort of “deny anything”, if it does constitute that. I’m really curious to hear your thoughts on those three passages and my exegesis thereof (plus perhaps Schaeffer’s).

            So… a person created the laws of nature, but the laws of nature also ARE his “personhood” – makes total sense, when I create something, it´s completely obvious that my creation and my “personhood” are the same.

            I’m sorry if I confused the creator with the creation. That being said, it is well-known that an artist can “put a lot of himself” into his art. I know the difference between theism, pantheism, and panentheism enough to say this. I happen to believe that God put so much of himself into this creation that we can learn an incredible amount from examining it. But there’s still a difference between learning all of a person’s habits and proclivities, and knowing them as a person.

            Yeah, non-christians are stupid, vile and generally subhuman in every way, we got the message.

            Not what it says. Indeed, Romans 2 is written against Christians, with this wonderful little verse:

            For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” (Rom 2:24)

            Yep, the harshest criticism is for the Christians, not for the non-believers. You will rarely hear this, but Paul is doing a 1–2 punch with Romans 1–2. The greatest criticism is against believers, very clearly. Anybody who tells you differently is ignoring the log in his own eye.

            So you don´t want God around? Interesting.

            If you were a mountain, you would be Mt. Cleverest. wah wah

          • Andy_Schueler

            If I say God exists, you want to know what difference that makes, necessarily. I say no difference necessarily, because he allows his creatures so much freedom and is unwilling to override it except in unrepeatable ways.

            If that´s what “God exists” is supposed to mean, then it really does not mean anything. It would be like me saying “t29jg90h234gn is real” and you reply “what does that mean?” and I reply “well, it could mean that t29jg90h234gn does something, or not”.

            Andy, you know how you said that the only stable utopias are (i) homogenous; (ii) isolated from the rest of the world?

            That wasn´t what I said. The amish or hutterite communities are certainly not the worst communities that humans have come up with, but I don´t consider them to be an utopia in any way (I wouldn´t want to live among them and I presume that you wouldn´t want to either). My point was a different one – that the distinguishing properties of such communities, like their extremely high levels of ingroup cohesion and cooperation, depend on those communities staying small, homogeneous and isolated.

            You will have to decide whether these passages “deny anything”. You would seem to say they do based on your utopias claim (they deny at least premise (i)). But that is only a probabilistic denial. Maybe that’s good enough?

            I think that´s comparing apples and oranges because I described something that is while the “denial” in these verses is an ought – commandments.

            Jesus doesn’t say that miracles will convince. He says that unity in diversity will convince. Is that good enough for you?

            If you find a way that reliably allows us to build better societies, then I would believe that you have found a way to build better societies. If you had found such a way and it seems to depend on people holding beliefs that are unique to christianity – then I would be extremely surprised (to put it at its mildest) and would try to figure out why that is (that scenario would be incompatible with “unity in diversity” though).

            I’ve only really seen this “unity in diversity” in one place: my college Christian fellowship.

            Then you had a community that was united by one set of shared and important beliefs – christianity. Everything that people care enough about can do that, you don´t even need a religion, a frickin soccer team could do that (trust me, there are people who love Manchester United every bit as much as you love Jesus and who have ties to their fellow manu fans – even if they have differing religious / political / whatever beliefs – which are as strong as your ties to your fellow christians in this christian fellowship). Uniting people like that was never a problem – and we stumbled upon countless ways of doing it, from religions to sports to political ideologies, and all ways suck in at least some respects, some are pretty much universally bad (everything that involves nationalism (instead of mere patriotism) for example). Getting people to recognize the entire human race as their ingroup however is a problem, and I don´t see christianity providing any solutions here – it historically certainly did not deliver any.
            Note that pointing to a bible verse and saying “but if only people would do this and that” is uninteresting – I could do the same with quotes from The Communist Manifesto instead of bible verses, that wouldn´t mean that communism could work or would be a good idea if it could work.

            I do find the above to be a weird sort of “deny anything”, if it does constitute that.

            Because you are comparing ought statements with is statements. But ought statements can be just as meaningless by not denying anything as is statements can be. If you are vague enough when you interpret ought statements, leaving you with effectively infinite wiggle room, then your interpretation is meaningless, if you don´t do that, it isn´t meaningless.

            Not what it says. Indeed, Romans 2 is written against Christians, with this wonderful little verse:

            For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” (Rom 2:24)

            Yep, the harshest criticism is for the Christians, not for the non-believers.

            So, on the one hand, we have non-believers who are wicked foolish fools who suppress the truth with their wickedness and who are therefore given over to a depraved mind by Yahweh which leads them to every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity and also makes them gay. On the other hand, we have christians, who should not judge and who cause the name of God to be blasphemed among the gentiles when they do. Clearly, the harsher criticism is reserved for christians.
            Don´t misunderstand me though, I´m not offended as a non-believer – I would be if there were any reason to respect the opinion of Paul, but I don´t see any reason to respect the opinion of someone who spews something that boils down to the 1st century equivalent of “lol, you´re a stupid faggot”.

          • Luke Breuer

            Because at some point, the sheer number of unwarranted assumptions becomes simply overwhelming.

            Fair enough. I suppose we stop trying if it’s too much of a pain for you. You certainly up the annoyance level for me when you pepper your posts with “but just so you know, your god doesn’t exist”.

            Granting you that there is a God for the sake of the argument and granting you some vague qualities about him also for the sake of the argument, I can deal with – but when you then start pretending to have detailed knowledge of particularities re Gods desires, actions and alleged revelations – then you have literally brought in an entire truckload of assumptions and don´t even try to demonstrate that any one of them is actually true.

            Wow, I would laugh out loud for a good minute if my wife weren’t sleeping. I just severed several recent threads with The Thinker, because he kept criticizing me for being vague! He wanted details and more details and more details. The two opposite, extreme positions you two want me to take is quite humorous. As to the ‘truckload’, there is an element of coherentism to my model, meaning I cannot necessarily demonstrate an individual claim in isolation. This is true in a lot of modern science, by the way.

            That is first of all incredibly presumptous of you and secondly, you are simply making stuff up

            Perhaps it is presumptuous, but I take a fairly cold view when it comes to the problem of evil, where I see many wanting God to fight evil so they don’t have to. I know it’s always phrased in terms of death and stage IV brain tumors and tsunamis and the horror that is our evolutionary history (fun new research). That being said, I just have this suspicion that many folks don’t want to do the self-denial and cross-carrying that are the costs for truly fighting evil and reducing the pain and suffering in the world. I guess you could call me a bigot for thinking this. I’m not sure I mind; I’ve been forced to suffer so much by people who thought I deserved it that I’ve become a bit… tired? I don’t know the right word. Get demeaned enough in life and your perspective changes.

            That is an empirical claim which would be trivially easy to demonstrate, there would then be no disagreements about a-b among christians. So this is empirically false.

            Because all people who label themselves as Christians really believe the Bible, yep. Many people do not want to let go of their ideas of how the world ought to work. Just look at Christians who twist the Bible so that it has no dirty words. So I don’t think your empirical test is at all a good one. The most you should expect is for some Christians to be able to show how scripture makes fantastically intricate contact with reality. Perhaps this comment of mine is a decent example (see the blog post).

            That is gibberish to me. What does “burning out a word” mean? Give a specific example.

            An example would be ‘grace’, which Dietrich Bonhoeffer split into ‘cheap grace’ and ‘costly grace'; details here. Cheap grace is a term that is effectively meaningless, except perhaps to say “there are no consequences if you mentally assent to Jesus”. This is so utterly divorced from how the word is used in the Bible that I would say that the process of ‘grace’ → ‘cheap grace’ constitutes “burning out the word”.

            Perhaps the best example is ‘love’. For Hollywood, love is almost entirely romantic, erotic. There is no sense of agape love, of love which builds someone up, which helps him achieve his purpose. The very concept of building someone up, treating her as a full person with purposes which I do not determine, is just foreign to a lot of people. No, our society needs cogs to fit into its machines; if you don’t fit, you must change! It’s insidious.

            Have you read Nineteen Eighty-Four? How about something like The Social Construction of Reality?

            My point was that human-human interactions either are valid for metaphors or analogies or they are not, if they are only valid when they help you make a point but automatically invalid when they make a point for me – then I will simply reject all of your metaphors and analogies involving human-human relationships out of hand, either they are valid, at least in principle, or they are not.

            You seem to have kept me from disagreeing about how you are applying the analogy. Fundamentally though, I think it is the gulf between Christianese-relationships and English-relationships which I think is the culprit. You affirm it; I deny it. I could go back through the metaphors and analogies and try and see specifically what it is that you are saying that I’m denying, and try and simulate your point of view that I’m holding a double standard, but I’m inclined to think that our disagreement about the existence of said gulf is a huge deal.

            Doesn´t follow from anything I wrote and that is not my point.

            I think I need to reevaluate this entire conversation. At the part you quoted here, I was really getting more at the ‘gulf’ idea.

            Your differentiating between a Christianese-relationship and an English-relationship seems entirely predicated upon God not existing. Is this true? Many words have been typed on this matter and I’m actually not sure there is any more disagreement than whether Jesus actually exists [as God]. Skipping down in your reply:

            I totally acknowledge that you COULD have one, but you don´t have one – you simply don´t

            Remind me why you’re so confident of this? Last I recall, it was because if I did have an English-relationship with Jesus, I could introduce him to you and he could communicate to you somehow (we have since established that it could be nonverbal; it doesn’t necessarily have to be propositional). Is this still your reason?

            “Lets turn the table for a second. Imagine I claim that I have a relationship, an actual relationship, with Atticus Finch. I´m not claiming that I can speak to him or anything like that, but I think that when I think about him, he “replies” by inserting thoughts into my head and stuff like that. I know that Finch is fictional, but maybe enough people thought about him and wished that he were real, which then made him real because [insert some Deepak Chopra quantum-voodoo-wishing-from-the-universe-BS here] (if you grant me that possibility, I´ll grant you the possibility that Jesus can magically inserts thoughts into your head or “interact with you holistically”, whatever that means).

            1. What would convince you that I am right?

            2. What would convince you that I might be wrong but that my belief in having an actual relationship with Atticus Finch is a warranted belief?

            3. If I become an absolutely brilliant legal scholar or a supreme court judge who is widely considered to be the most wise and just person who has ever held such a position, and I credit my relationship with Atticus Finch as the single most important influence for that, would you consider that to be evidence for me having an actual relationship with Atticus Finch instead of a christianese one? ”

            => Please answer them.

            1. Be a conduit for me to discuss with Atticus, and let the discussion range much further than any books or writings about him ever ranged. We humans have a sense about whether a person is real or fake; I would employ it.

            2. Cracks in the discussion ^, things that just don’t make sense, things that really look like you mixing your personality with Atticus’.

            3. If enough people claimed this, probably. I would trust in the general human characteristic of falsely claiming too much credit for oneself on average. Now, back to my ‘bounded’ bits: over time, if Atticus still lives, I would expect his impact to continue to be potent, even as jurisprudence advances far beyond what book-Atticus could have imagined. If Atticus runs out of gas, then “no”.

            The bounds are exactly the same as they are in your christianese relationship with Jesus – whatever your imagination is capable of, just like you can ask “What would Jesus do / say?” someone else can ask the same thing of MLK, explain how there is any qualitative difference here between the Jesus case and any other christianese relationship without begging the question.

            This is really feeding into my thoughts about the Caprica TV series, where digital copies of people were made to insert into a virtual reality. Was that realistic? Or would the digital entities be somehow less than people, algorithmic in a sense, unable to continually game the system as humans can do?

            Could we resurrect MLK somehow (fold space, go 100 light-years away, build a huge ‘Dyson’ sphere, capture all EM radiation, also scan the earth, unmix all the quantum states, and reconstruct him)? And what happens when we get 99% of him, 98%, 70%, etc., in said reconstruction? I’m also reminded of Thomas Riker.

            The two paragraphs above start ‘fuzzing’ the once-clear distinction between real people and fictional people. Any imperfect biography of a person is, in a sense, a fictional person. And yet, it is possible to “get a sense” of a person, such that you can error-correct at least some of the distortions. And sometimes you can predict how the person would act in a new situation.

            Ramble ramble ramble. I guess I can’t give you a nice clear response to that section of text. Maybe at some point.

            There is no “easy to mistake here” – you can distinguish between an actual relationship and a christianese relationship with 100% accuracy, just like everyone else can.

            When one person ‘communicates’ with another person to merely control and manipulate that person—like you’d program a computer—is that an English-relationship? Perhaps this ‘communicates’ is bullshit in the technical sense (you can find the PDF online). If that were the case, words might not even be used to communicate; bullshit is truth-agnostic.

            I am fascinated by this claim of yours, given all of my life I spent interacting with people on a subhuman level. I really am fully convinced that there is something between English-relationships and Christianese-relationships. You aren’t. This is just fascinating to me. I don’t know why you want to call manipulative relationships where the other person is merely an object an English-relationship. But perhaps you wouldn’t? I have this bad habit of picking a situation beyond what we’ve discussed so far, and attributing it to you. My apologies! :-(

          • Andy_Schueler

            Perhaps it is presumptuous, but I take a fairly cold view when it comes to the problem of evil, where I see many wanting God to fight evil so they don’t have to.

            Again, there is no evidence for there being any difference in the God concepts that people actually believe in and the distribution of God concepts that people would like to believe in but can´t.
            So your original point is simply false.

            Because all people who label themselves as Christians really believe the Bible, yep.

            I thought God will correct them if they believed the false things. Apparently not.

            Your differentiating between a Christianese-relationship and an English-relationship seems entirely predicated upon God not existing. Is this true?

            Not at all. Assuming that your God is real / granting you that your God is real for the sake of the argument would not change anything wrt the point I made re actual relationships vs christianese relationships.

            Remind me why you’re so confident of this?

            For the same reasons you have for being certain that I don´t have an actual relationship with MLK or Atticus Finch.

            1. Be a conduit for me to discuss with Atticus, and let the discussion range much further than any books or writings about him ever ranged. We humans have a sense about whether a person is real or fake; I would employ it.

            Weird. When I say the exact same about Jesus, you casually dismiss it because it would obviously be completely ridiculous for Jesus to come to me “on my terms”, and even more ridiculous for you to introduce Jesus to me, and I also obviously have to choose to start believing a set of hyper-specific things about Jesus before this could go anywhere.
            That´s honestly the most extreme and most obvious double standard I have ever seen.

            2. Cracks in the discussion ^, things that just don’t make sense, things that really look like you mixing your personality with Atticus’.

            Again, weird that you insist on having a discussion with Atticus first while me asking for the exact same with Jesus is obviously ridiculous.
            Double standard.

            3. If enough people claimed this, probably. I would trust in the general human characteristic of falsely claiming too much credit for oneself on average. Now, back to my ‘bounded’ bits: over time, if Atticus still lives, I would expect his impact to continue to be potent, even as jurisprudence advances far beyond what book-Atticus could have imagined. If Atticus runs out of gas, then “no”.

            That wasn´t my question. Atticus is a fictional character, would the scenario I described be evidence for someone having an actual relationship with him or wouldn´t it?

            The two paragraphs above start ‘fuzzing’ the once-clear distinction between real people and fictional people. Any imperfect biography of a person is, in a sense, a fictional person. And yet, it is possible to “get a sense” of a person, such that you can error-correct at least some of the distortions. And sometimes you can predict how the person would act in a new situation.

            Absolutely. Yet we would never confuse this for an actual relationship, we know, we can tell this apart from an actual relationship with 100% accuracy. I can, and you can as well.

            I am fascinated by this claim of yours, given all of my life I spent interacting with people on a subhuman level. I really am fully convinced that there is something between English-relationships and Christianese-relationships. You aren’t. This is just fascinating to me. I don’t know why you want to call manipulative relationships where the other person is merely an object an English-relationship. But perhaps you wouldn’t?

            I thought I was clear about that. There is no gray area between the two in the sense that you cannot possible confuse an instance of one for an instance of the other. You will never mistake your relationship with your wife for a christianese relationship and you will never mistake your christianese relationship with your favorite fictional character or dead person for an actual relationship.
            We don´t make these mistakes – the two categories are not like night and day with “gray areas” like dawn and dusk in between, they are clearly and obviously different, we cannot mistake an instance of one for an instance of the other.
            Re “why you want to call manipulative relationships where the other person is merely an object an English-relationship” – because it obviously and unambigiously is one, nothing about an actual relationship requires that both sides see each other as equals, as full persons, nothing requires that both sides treat each other with respect, kindness or anything else – that a relationship is superficial or abusive or just generally sucks for some other reason, doesn´t change the fact that it is a relationship. And, again, you will never mistake this for a christianese relationship.

          • Luke Breuer

            Again, there is no evidence for there being any difference in the God concepts that people actually believe in and the distribution of God concepts that people would like to believe in but can´t.

            So your original point is simply false.

            I’m going off of intuition; the correct answer is unknown, not ‘false’. This is a wonderful provocation to start collecting data, though. I’ll try to keep this in mind as I talk about ‘God’ with theists and atheists.

            I thought God will correct them if they believed the false things. Apparently not.

            Free will can thwart God doing this. We have choice. Yep, I know, you like something not even CFW. I’m asserting a giant-ass miracle by claiming something remarkably close to LFW, if not necessarily LFW (I don’t know about this ‘necessarily’). I do suspect that CFW is not in principle falsifiable. I wonder if your model of free will (IIRC you don’t even want to call it ‘free will’) is falsifiable, in principle?

            Not at all. Assuming that your God is real / granting you that your God is real for the sake of the argument would not change anything wrt the point I made re actual relationships vs christianese relationships.

            Wait a second, suppose that God is real. You still strongly, strongly claim that I, Luke, do not have an English-relationship with him. What is your basis for stating this?

            For the same reasons you have for being certain that I don´t have an actual relationship with MLK or Atticus Finch.

            My reason is that they’re dead. Are you Nietzsche, reincarnated?

            Weird. When I say the exact same about Jesus, you casually dismiss it because it would obviously be completely ridiculous for Jesus to come to me “on my terms”

            I wasn’t aware that you would be ok with me being a [noisy] conduit? I was expressly excluding the ‘conduit’ option, thinking that you would find that unacceptable, that it would be just my imagination talking to you. Was I wrong to exclude this?

            That´s honestly the most extreme and most obvious double standard I have ever seen.

            Let’s see if you still see it that way after the above. But I am enjoying this conversation; if there is a double standard, only rigorous discussion like this will find it.

            That wasn´t my question. Atticus is a fictional character, would the scenario I described be evidence for someone having an actual relationship with him or wouldn´t it?

            I had to exclude the ‘fictional character’ bit in order to make the comparison valid. I had to leave open the option that he was neither (i) fictional nor (ii) dead, in order to have the comparison to the orthodox Christian conception of Jesus be valid.

            There is no gray area between the two in the sense that you cannot possible confuse an instance of one for an instance of the other.

            We are fast approximating the time when people will think they’re having English-relationships with robots, with robots which are no more complex than our collected works on MLK. Would you call such an interaction an English-relationship? Or is it something less? I may have been horribly misunderstanding the definition of ‘English-relationship’, if I can have an English-relationship with a robot that has finite programming and finite behavior. I’m excluding a robot which would e.g. consume entropy and become ever more complex, such that its most compact definition would grow in an unbounded manner. Theory of computation for the win.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Free will can thwart God doing this.

            So God did correct everybody who agrees with you, and God would have corrected everybody who doesn´t agree with you, but couldn´t because free will?

            I do suspect that CFW is not in principle falsifiable. I wonder if your model of free will (IIRC you don’t even want to call it ‘free will’) is falsifiable, in principle?

            There is no particular model of free will that I´m aware of and would subscribe to. The only thing I am certain of in this regard, is that libertarian free will cannot exist because LFW is self-refuting.

            Wait a second, suppose that God is real. You still strongly, strongly claim that I, Luke, do not have an English-relationship with him.

            Absolutely.

            What is your basis for stating this?

            The nature of your relationship with Jesus as described by you.

            My reason is that they’re dead.

            1. Finch isn´t dead, he´s fictional.
            2. That seems to be yet another double standard. I don´t believe in any Gods and I don´t believe that any human being was ever raised from the dead – if I reject christianity from the get go because of that, you would call that closed-minded, and you also don´t seem to believe that you have any burden of proof to demonstrate that Yahweh exists and raised Jesus from the dead. Why is it ok for you to use the “he´s dead, get over it” move, but not for me?

            Are you Nietzsche, reincarnated?

            You expect that people grant you the existence of a deity + a resurrection, and you are not even willing to grant others just a resurrection? Little unfair. Also, as an alternative to a resurrection, just grant me some Deepak Chopra style quantum-voodoo – works just as well.

            I wasn’t aware that you would be ok with me being a [noisy] conduit? I was expressly excluding the ‘conduit’ option, thinking that you would find that unacceptable, that it would be just my imagination talking to you. Was I wrong to exclude this?

            So what exactly does “noisy conduit” mean? Does it mean that I ask questions, you think about “What would Jesus answer to that?” and then tell me what you think Jesus would answer to that question, or do you claim to be able to actually get an answer from Jesus that you could relay to me, but Jesus cannot tell me that answer directly?

            We are fast approximating the time when people will think they’re having English-relationships with robots, with robots which are no more complex than our collected works on MLK.

            Re the relationships with robots part – yes, probably. Re the complexity part – there is no meaningful way to compare the complexity of a static amount of text (like MLKs published works) with the complexity of a robot.

            Would you call such an interaction an English-relationship?

            Absolutely. That was kind of the whole idea behind the Turing test – you have a true artificial intelligence if you could not tell it apart from a human intelligence, and that does include the possibility of having meaningful relationships with them.

            I may have been horribly misunderstanding the definition of ‘English-relationship’, if I can have an English-relationship with a robot that has finite programming and finite behavior.

            You´ve told me about your “infinite descriptions” ideas before and I still think they are wrong, but that doesn´t matter for this point here, what matters is whether you could tell the artificial intelligence apart from a human intelligence. If you are unable to do so, then that automatically means that you could have a relationship with an AI that could be every bit as meaningful as relationships with a human intelligence could be – if this were not the case, then you would have at least one aspect in which the AI clearly is distinguishable from a human intelligence, meaning it would not pass the Turing test.

          • Luke Breuer

            So God did correct everybody who agrees with you, and God would have corrected everybody who doesn´t agree with you, but couldn´t because free will?

            Who said I have everything figured out? I’m certain I have things wrong. So I don’t really see how what you say applies. Perhaps we could work with a non-sarcastic version? It seems to me that you’re playing with the ‘free will’ thing, in the sense that it’s a catch-all excuse that makes the whole thing meaningless or something like that.

            There is no particular model of free will that I´m aware of and would subscribe to. The only thing I am certain of in this regard, is that libertarian free will cannot exist because LFW is self-refuting.

            I’ll go with “spontaneous eruption of local order (SELO)” as my model; it may not be LFW, but it certainly ain’t CFW.

            The nature of your relationship with Jesus as described by you.

            I’m pretty sure I didn’t say this. But maybe I erred. You’ve forced me to explain ideas about the Christian’s relationship with Jesus I have never thought about in such depth before, so perhaps I got some things wrong.

            1. Finch isn´t dead, he´s fictional.

            Is there a difference? MLK’s writings, writings about Finch. Both are finite. Biographies about MLK could have wrongness, and the author of Finch could have based him on a real-life person, so I don’t think “realisticness” can be a differentiating factor. So I’m actually not sure there is a difference, as far as we care about.

            2. That seems to be yet another double standard. I don´t believe in any Gods and I don´t believe that any human being was ever raised from the dead – if I reject christianity from the get go because of that, you would call that closed-minded, and you also don´t seem to believe that you have any burden of proof to demonstrate that Yahweh exists and raised Jesus from the dead. Why is it ok for you to use the “he´s dead, get over it” move, but not for me?

            Coherentism: if you don’t let me build an argument before striking it down, I cannot get it off the ground.

            You expect that people grant you the existence of a deity + a resurrection, and you are not even willing to grant others just a resurrection?

            Who says I’m not willing? :-p Unlike many skeptics and atheists, I don’t need to immediately deny others’ claims. Instead, I will simply watch what they do with them, and pipe up if they seem to be damaging themselves or society with their beliefs. I’m not a metaphysical tyrant. I don’t think that is at all required for the various kinds of progress we care about.

            So what exactly does “noisy conduit” mean? Does it mean that I ask questions, you think about “What would Jesus answer to that?” and then tell me what you think Jesus would answer to that question, or do you claim to be able to actually get an answer from Jesus that you could relay to me, but Jesus cannot tell me that answer directly?

            Right now, I have nothing like the dialog that would let me be a conduit to you. It’s very, very vague, much of the time. I explained above some circumstances where it doesn’t seem so vague, but those aren’t conducive to being a conduit. I imagine that in some point in the future, I could be a half-decent conduit. I know at least one person who is at that point right now. As for me, I’m very much at the baby level on this issue. I still have too much self-hatred and other crap going on in my head, obscuring things.

            As to your question, it would be akin to me telling you how my wife would answer. But I could always go back to her and ask for clarification and give you a better answer later, if it turns out my earlier answer was incorrect. Whether I could close the loop to within milliseconds is something I just don’t know. Most Christians I know seem to have much more of a Christianese-relationship with Jesus than an English-relationship. A few though, seem closer to the English-variety. You would reject it, due to your belief in a huge gulf.

            Re the relationships with robots part – yes, probably. Re the complexity part – there is no meaningful way to compare the complexity of a static amount of text (like MLKs published works) with the complexity of a robot.

            Do you know about Shannon entropy? It’s not that hard to measure the complexity of a robot’s code + data it operates on. Or if we made a robot that works via neural network, we could come up with measures of its complexity. For fun, see The Shakespeare Programming Language. Or see the theory of computation. A fascinating philosophy work is The Computational Theory of the Laws of Nature, which asks what “God’s Big Book of Facts” would look like. So I disagree quite strongly, on this point.

            Absolutely. That was kind of the whole idea behind the Turing test – you have a true artificial intelligence if you could not tell it apart from a human intelligence, and that does include the possibility of having meaningful relationships with them.

            By this definition, some insane people have English-relationships between parts of their brains, no? Consider, say, certain split-brain patients.

            You´ve told me about your “infinite descriptions” ideas before and I still think they are wrong

            Why? What’s wrong with a system of axioms that’s not recursively enumerable? Why couldn’t such a system describe something in reality? We’re not talking about your standard [numerical] ‘real infinity’. Infinite complexity isn’t the same as e.g. infinite particles, is it? Perhaps you refer to something like the Bekenstein bound? If so, then we could merely talk about whether a person has the potential for infinite description, as t → ∞. I’m not sure the difference is particularly important, for discussions dependent on it.

            As far as I can tell, one ought to treat an entity fundamentally differently based on whether it has the potential to have infinite description, or whether it’ll always be finitely describable (like an OR gate).

            what matters is whether you could tell the artificial intelligence apart from a human intelligence. If you are unable to do so, then that automatically means that you could have a relationship with an AI that could be every bit as meaningful as relationships with a human intelligence could be – if this were not the case, then you would have at least one aspect in which the AI clearly is distinguishable from a human intelligence, meaning it would not pass the Turing test.

            So why again, can one not have English-relationships with voices in one’s head? Or consider an impersonator, who can convince you that you’re talking to a different person—as if that impersonator were a robot? This is all awfully muddied in my head, but it seems to be so clear in yours. I want to know if it really is clear, or whether you’re glossing over complexities that truly threaten the “gulf” you have claimed exists.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Who said I have everything figured out? I’m certain I have things wrong. So I don’t really see how what you say applies. Perhaps we could work with a non-sarcastic version? It seems to me that you’re playing with the ‘free will’ thing, in the sense that it’s a catch-all excuse that makes the whole thing meaningless or something like that.

            You say that God corrects people, but that people can also use their free will to be “uncorrectable” – that is a Catch-22 situation.

            I’ll go with “spontaneous eruption of local order (SELO)” as my model; it may not be LFW, but it certainly ain’t CFW.

            So what´s the difference between SELO and compatibilism?

            I’m pretty sure I didn’t say this.

            You gave a description of your religious experiences and of what your relationship with Jesus means to you. And what you described was a christianese relationship, a “relationship” like my “relationships” to MLK or my dead grandfather.

            Coherentism: if you don’t let me build an argument before striking it down, I cannot get it off the ground.

            As I said, a double standard. You are certain that I don´t have an actual relationship with MLK because MLK is dead. But I should not be certain that you don´t have a relationship with Jesus because then you couldn´t get off the ground. Do you think that´s fair?

            Right now, I have nothing like the dialog that would let me be a conduit to you. It’s very, very vague, much of the time. I explained above some circumstances where it doesn’t seem so vague, but those aren’t conducive to being a conduit. I imagine that in some point in the future, I could be a half-decent conduit. I know at least one person who is at that point right now. As for me, I’m very much at the baby level on this issue. I still have too much self-hatred and other crap going on in my head, obscuring things.

            This one person that you know who is beyond the baby level on this issue – does (s)he claim to be able to get an answer from Jesus or is (s)he simply much more experienced when it comes to thinking about WWJD questions?

            As to your question, it would be akin to me telling you how my wife would answer. But I could always go back to her and ask for clarification and give you a better answer later, if it turns out my earlier answer was incorrect.

            Is it? So you can ask Jesus a question like “Hey Jesus, I told Andy that you [insert stuff here], was that correct or did I misrepresent you?” and get an answer from Jesus?
            I doubt that this is what you mean, but then it is most certainly not akin to you speaking for your wife and then asking her if your idea of what she would have said was correct.

            Whether I could close the loop to within milliseconds is something I just don’t know. Most Christians I know seem to have much more of a Christianese-relationship with Jesus than an English-relationship. A few though, seem closer to the English-variety. You would reject it, due to your belief in a huge gulf.

            I don´t believe in a “huge gulf”, if anything, the “gulf” is infinite.
            Imagine that Barack Obama is my idol (he most certainly is not but lets pretend he is for the sake of the argument), and I devote a few hours every day reading about him and thinking about the things he said and did, but I never had any form of interaction with him – never met him, never spoke to him, not even exchanged a few emails or text messages, nothing, no verbal or nonverbal communication what-so-ever. Now, if I say that based on that, I have an actual relationship with Barack Obama, you would immediatly realize that I have no such thing, and you could point that out to me, by making my “christianese relationship” point or something comparable. If I would then acknowledge that there indeed is a difference between an actual relationship and my “relationship” with Barack Obama, but I think that I can cross the “gulf” between christianese and actual relationship by simply thinking more about Barack (instead of actually interacting and communicating with him in some way), then I would just demonstrate that I did not actually get the point re “actual relationships” vs “christianese relationships”.

            Do you know about Shannon entropy? It’s not that hard to measure the complexity of a robot’s code + data it operates on.

            Yes, and if you measured that for a) a text representation of your DNA, b) a telephone book, c) the Bible, d) source code for a computer program written in Brainfuck and e) source code that can be compiled to identical machine code as the one in d) but which is written in C instead of brainfuck – then you get five values measured in bits, but those are not actually comparable in any meaningful way. The source code for Conways Game of Life would have orders of magnitude less kolmogorov complexity or shannon entropy or whatever, than a telephone book would have for example. And the telephone book for a large city would have much more complexity than the Bible, the DNA of some Onions, Frogs and frickin Amoebas would be much more complex than your DNA, and so on and so forth. These comparisons don´t mean anything, bits can be nothing but meaningless information garbage, but they don´t have to be.

            By this definition, some insane people have English-relationships between parts of their brains, no? Consider, say, certain split-brain patients.

            And that´s not even the weirdest thing, there was a woman who seemed to be genuinely convinced that she had a relationship with Luke Skywalker (yes, the Star Wars Luke – not the actor!) and got pregnant from him (she actually was pregnant, but doctors were rather certain that the father was someone other than Luke Skywalker).
            I´ll repeat what I said at the beginning of this conversation:
            we can tell this apart with 100% accuracy, I will never mistake a christianese relationship for an actual one or the other way around. Every human being with a grip on reality is able to do that with 100% accuracy, not being able to do that would mean that you are insane – from a legal and from a clinical perspective.

            So why again, can one not have English-relationships with voices in one’s head?

            You could. Depending on the cultural context, that would either make you a prophet, demonically possessed or clinically insane.
            I don´t see the relevance though because you don´t claim to have such a relationship with Jesus (and again, I´m not aware of anyone who does claim to have such a relationship with Jesus and who was not institutionalized, or was pleading insanity in court, or is demonstrably a fraud or died hundreds of years ago).

          • Luke Breuer

            You say that God corrects people, but that people can also use their free will to be “uncorrectable” – that is a Catch-22 situation.

            So? It seems pretty damn true. Atheists and skeptics complain about it all the time: those religious folks just won’t respond to reason, because they believe what they want to believe. They are exerting their will and resisting Truth. What else is one going to observe with:

                 (i) an omni-deity who never compels
                 (ii) true freedom of the will of all beings

            ? People would always get to choose to listen or ignore. Now I think God set the universe up to punish those who ignore with increasing amounts of pain and suffering, which ideally redirect at the small, stubbed-toe levels. But we can act in rebellion, which is kinda the story of Adam & Eve, recapitulated throughout the Bible. The confounding thing is that my screwups affect more than me; ecosystems aren’t made up of individuals on islands, and neither are societies. Many complain about the deep connectivity between beings in the problem of evil domain, but many cultures have understood this deep connectivity for millennia.

            Perhaps you are saying that this is another aspect that makes God undetectable? If so I return to Mt 5:43-48, Jn 13:34-35, Jn 17:20-23, and the evidence this would provide. The evidence comes from people who willfully accept the help of the Trinity, who wishes there to be unity in diversity, just as there is unity in diversity in the Trinitarian godhead itself. You yourself noted that utopias don’t look like the kingdom of heaven described in the Bible, which calls for (a) significant heterogeneity; (b) interaction with the outside world.

            So what´s the difference between SELO and compatibilism?

            CFW is predicated upon there being only { pure randomness, natural laws }. It cannot survive SELO, as far as I can tell. But I haven’t managed to explore this idea too much; Jonathan is either uninterested or doesn’t have enough time.

            You gave a description of your religious experiences and of what your relationship with Jesus means to you. And what you described was a christianese relationship, a “relationship” like my “relationships” to MLK or my dead grandfather.

            You are oversimplifying. You are also ignoring my intent behind the last several paragraphs of this comment. You might benefit from reading Josef Pieper’s “Divine Madness”: Plato’s Case Against Secular Humanism, which contains this bit:

            The philosopher and the true lover—neither will find fulfillment except through a divine favor.
                If, in retrospect, you consider the core of what has been said, you may be tempted to conclude that all this, while admittedly impressive, is at the same time an “ideal” concept that hardly applies to the reality of any living and berating human being. It is pointless to argue with such an impression. Everything depends on how one defines human “reality” and a “genuine” human being. (50)

            The last sentence deeply was deeply reminiscent of this conversation. What you believe about (1) reality and (2) what constitutes genuine humanness will shape how you think and act, and what possible worlds you will be able to bring into existence. There is a fairly famous bit in scripture:

            Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (Ja 4:7-8)

            If you don’t draw near to God, then he’ll let you be. Nobody can force you to draw near to God, because this is compulsion and God hates it (except treating others who first chose to compel in a symmetric fashion). This isn’t a meaningless concept; there are plenty of people who likewise shun compulsion.

            As I said, a double standard. You are certain that I don´t have an actual relationship with MLK because MLK is dead. But I should not be certain that you don´t have a relationship with Jesus because then you couldn´t get off the ground. Do you think that´s fair?

            Where did I say that I was thusly certain? If you claimed to know a resurrected MLK, then a learned MLK scholar could challenge you to be a conduit for this resurrected MLK, and via a kind of Turing test, get a pretty good idea of whether you’re bullshitting, or simulating MLK so ridiculously well that it’s indistinguishable from a resurrected MLK. You see Andy, I don’t have to deny resurrection. I can simply do nothing with reported claims of resurrection unless the person shows me compelling reason to do something with them. I have no need to deny them out-of-hand. I have no need to have a closed idea of what reality is like. There’s a lot of mystery out there. Just about anything is possible, and the seemingly impossible happens remarkably frequently. Just see my friend who ran to the restaurant he hated, just in time to ‘randomly’ save an old women falling down some steps.

            This one person that you know who is beyond the baby level on this issue – does (s)he claim to be able to get an answer from Jesus or is (s)he simply much more experienced when it comes to thinking about WWJD questions?

            Given that he rejects much of modern Christianity as bullshit†, where would he get WWJD from? He grew up extremely emotionally abused in a non-Christian home, without Christian friends and mistreated at Christian camps. So he had virtually no exposure to modern Christian theology; instead he just had the Bible and experience, which he would figure out how to interpret in light of the Bible and reason. And even he has a lot of troubles communicating to Jesus, given his extremely hard upbringing. What he reports Jesus as saying to him is almost always profound; it almost always forces me to interpret the Bible in a new, better light than I did before. This ‘better’, in my view, is powerful evidence.

            † Examples: (1) modern forgiveness teaching is fucked up, based on cheap grace; (2) modern teaching on anger is fucked up, based on “you should never be angry”, contra Ps 4:4, Eph 4:26, Rom 12:9, and others; (3) attitudes toward the poor are largely opposed to OT and NT teachings; (4) a focus on homosexuality being terrible is almost the opposite of Jesus reaching out to prostitutes and tax collectors; (5) Jesus focused a lot on sins of the heart, including pride, which is virtually never talked about.

            Is it? So you can ask Jesus a question like “Hey Jesus, I told Andy that you [insert stuff here], was that correct or did I misrepresent you?” and get an answer from Jesus?

            This happens more often when there’s a real life exigency, like the president of a Christian fellowship demanding that another member be excommunicated or he would leave. I was in a mentorship position (not in the leadership at all) at the time, and did a crapton of praying and Bible study and talking to people. What I came up with resulted in only the president leaving, which is pretty remarkable if you know your organization dynamics. Furthermore, what I came up with has been repeatedly praised online when I tell about it. I’m only 29, and yet folks older and wiser than I are telling me that it’s fantastic stuff. So I don’t think it’s entirely unreasonable to suppose that I had divine help. But you can always—and this is important, always—claim that there was no divine help. That’s kind of the point of Romans 1:21: one can always deny God and deny that he helped via being not-thankful. At any point. Hence the calls in scripture to persevere.

            This being said, I find it fascinating that I was reading Josef Pieper’s Divine Madness just about the time that we started talking about relationship with Jesus, and that I had started but not finished Foucault’s Madness and Civilization a few months ago. Furthermore, my wife and I are scheduling a meet-up with the pastor of our church to talk about what that ‘special sauce’ is that allegedly gives Christians more power to become Christlike than non-Christians. The confluence here is pretty amazing IMHO. One can always call such things ‘coincidence’, but I have a niggling suspicion there may be more. What will I do with such suspicion? Largely, take advantage of it and be thankful.

            Oh, this is relevant, from Keith Ward’s The Case for Religion:

                There is, in other words, a question to ask about the content, as well as the function, of religious beliefs. Are there supernatural realities which are not part of the content of some human mind, not even part of a ‘social mind’ or collective unconscious, but which exist in their own right? What functional explanations suggest is that the way in which such realities are apprehended is partly a result of the nature of the minds that apprehend them. There is, perhaps, no neutral way of apprehending the spiritual. It is not like seeing a table, which is there whatever mood one happens to be in. The spiritual is apprehended as a dynamic power in relation to a human perceiver facing particular problems and working out specific solutions to them.
                It is misleading to ask whether religious beliefs are true, as if that was a neutrally ascertainable matter of fact. As Jung puts it, ‘Only that which acts upon me do I recognise as real and actual.’ The ‘truth’ of a religious belief is known in some definite psychological response to an active power, the form of whose activity itself depends on the predispositions and receptivity of the human mind. (97)

            Jung reminds me of you! And it links well to the ‘evidence’ I discuss in the beginning of this comment. I don’t think you’ll be convinced of any of this apart from your own personal religious experience. And there is a big question: will you dismiss such an experience as ‘brain noise’? I remind you of my RDVT is false comment, which to-date has gotten no objections, no criticism. (At least, nothing strong enough to reply to that comment, and nothing strong enough for me to remember it. I’m actively looking for good criticisms of it!)

            I doubt that this is what you mean, but then it is most certainly not akin to you speaking for your wife and then asking her if your idea of what she would have said was correct.

            Nope, that’s precisely what I meant: “conduit”. It’s a pretty straightforward term. But see my “baby level” comment.

            Imagine that Barack Obama is my idol (he most certainly is not but lets pretend he is for the sake of the argument), and I devote a few hours every day reading about him and thinking about the things he said and did, but I never had any form of interaction with him – never met him, never spoke to him, not even exchanged a few emails or text messages, nothing, no verbal or nonverbal communication what-so-ever. Now, if I say that based on that, I have an actual relationship with Barack Obama, you would immediatly realize that I have no such thing, and you could point that out to me, by making my “christianese relationship” point or something comparable. If I would then acknowledge that there indeed is a difference between an actual relationship and my “relationship” with Barack Obama, but I think that I can cross the “gulf” between christianese and actual relationship by simply thinking more about Barack (instead of actually interacting and communicating with him in some way), then I would just demonstrate that I did not actually get the point re “actual relationships” vs “christianese relationships”.

            I’m glad he isn’t an idol; “yes we can” and vaguery do not an informed populace make or encourage. :-p

            You’ve predicated this entire discussion on you not having actual contact with Barak Obama; you’ve cooked into it the precondition that makes your relationship a Christianese one instead of an English one. Let’s remove that; let’s say that I don’t know whether or not you hare in actual contact. That will make the situation analagous.

            How would I discern between a Christianese-relationship (CR) and an English-relationship (ER)? Let’s remove the ‘conduit’ option for now. The best way to discern would be predictability: can you predict Obama’s next moves and next utterances? The better you can do this, the more likely you are in contact with him (let’s ignore the option of a high-level leak). Another option would be for you to give fantastically compelling motivations behind what he has said already. Here we have to discern between “just-so” stories and really compelling, compact models—there is no solid demarcation line between them (again, see Polanyi on crystallography), but that shouldn’t be prohibitive, as we usually have to live in probability-land anyhow.

            There is another option. Multiple people could all be coming to an ever-better model of Obama, independently, with incredible coherence between all of their models. Consider if non-communicating Christians from various parts of the globe are able to describe what Jesus is like, in much greater detail than what the Bible says, and all their accounts have shocking similarities, on details not found in the Bible. This, I believe, would be compelling reason to think that they all know the same person, and that this person is real. If this person weren’t real, the similarities would just not be explainable, would they?

            Yes, and if you measured that for a) a text representation of your DNA, b) a telephone book, c) the Bible, d) source code for a computer program written in Brainfuck and e) source code that can be compiled to identical machine code as the one in d) but which is written in C instead of brainfuck – then you get five values measured in bits, but those are not actually comparable in any meaningful way.

            This just isn’t true. Again, I point you to The Computational Theory of the Laws of Nature. Your d) and e) are actually directly comparable, via the invariance theorem. With a)-c), the issue here is how to maximally compress them. The better our math and ability to detect patterns, the better our ability to compress.

            Your b) doesn’t make sense here; it doesn’t contain nearly the same type of information as any of the others (unless perhaps there are enough advertisements, but I shall exclude that). So let’s exclude it.

            A person’s DNA will tell you what proclivities (s)he has, which, taken together with his/her environment, will give incredible predictive power. But a given person’s DNA itself doesn’t contain enough to tell us about human nature, for we wouldn’t immediately know what variations are present, and what initial conditions you would need to put in a simulation that could evolve societies. The Bible, on the other hand, tells you a lot about human nature; one might even be able to construct a successful Turing test based on it!

            An AI which can successfully pass a Turing test will have (1) a history; (2) values; (3) desires; (4) a personality; (5) a web of knowledge. Let me know if I missed any major things. The Bible contains all of these as well! And so do people’s biographies. So I don’t buy your objection.

            I´ll repeat what I said at the beginning of this conversation:

            we can tell this apart with 100% accuracy, I will never mistake a christianese relationship for an actual one or the other way around. Every human being with a grip on reality is able to do that with 100% accuracy, not being able to do that would mean that you are insane – from a legal and from a clinical perspective.

            You’re sounding dangerously similar to Boghossian in his Manual:

            There is perhaps no greater contribution one could make to contain and perhaps even cure faith than removing the exemption that prohibits classifying religious delusions as mental illness. The removal of religious exemptions from the DSM would enable academicians and clinicians to bring considerable resources to bear on the problem of treating faith, as well as on the ethical issues surrounding faith-based interventions. In the long term, once these treatments and this body of research is refined, results could then be used to inform public health policies designed to contain and ultimately eradicate faith. (Kindle Locations 3551-3555)

            Unless you want to argue that “not being able to do that” necessarily makes one less about to be (i) a good scientist; (ii) a good friend; (iii) a productive member of society, you are arguing on dogma, not evidence. Your argument is tantamount to “God doesn’t exist; anybody who claims he is and communicates to them needs to be locked up.” This is utterly awful! And yet, I’ll bet you believe it. I mean, it certainly sounds that way. Maybe I’m wrong, and maybe you just have never run into or heard of someone who claimed to have an English-relationship with Jesus, acted like it, and wasn’t insane? I suppose that’s what your last chunk of text says. But you also say “that would mean that you are insane”, which mitigates and makes me think you accept some dogma.

          • Andy_Schueler

            CFW is predicated upon there being only { pure randomness, natural laws }. It cannot survive SELO, as far as I can tell.

            So how exactly is SELO different from stochastic processes, deterministic processes or a mixture of both and why would those differences be relevant for a will?

            You are oversimplifying. You are also ignoring my intent behind the last several paragraphs of this comment. You might benefit from reading Josef Pieper’s “Divine Madness”: Plato’s Case Against Secular Humanism, which contains this bit:

            The philosopher and the true lover—neither will find fulfillment except through a divine favor.
            If, in retrospect, you consider the core of what has been said, you may be tempted to conclude that all this, while admittedly impressive, is at the same time an “ideal” concept that hardly applies to the reality of any living and berating human being. It is pointless to argue with such an impression. Everything depends on how one defines human “reality” and a “genuine” human being. (50)

            Theospeak. Meaningless.

            The last sentence deeply was deeply reminiscent of this conversation. What you believe about (1) reality and (2) what constitutes genuine humanness will shape how you think and act, and what possible worlds you will be able to bring into existence. There is a fairly famous bit in scripture:

            Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (Ja 4:7-8)

            If you don’t draw near to God, then he’ll let you be. Nobody can force you to draw near to God, because this is compulsion and God hates it

            Dude, you already told me what “near to god” means for you, Speak english or use christianese tags, its less confusing.

            Where did I say that I was thusly certain?

            Andy: I totally acknowledge that you COULD have one, but you don´t have one – you simply don´t.
            Luke: Remind me why you’re so confident of this?
            Andy: For the same reasons you have for being certain that I don´t have an actual relationship with MLK or Atticus Finch.
            Luke: My reason is that they’re dead.

            Just to clarify this, if I told you that I have an ongoing friendship with the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. – would you or would you not, be convinced that this cannot possibly be true? A direct yes or no answer would be very much appreciated.

            If you claimed to know a resurrected MLK, then a learned MLK scholar could challenge you to be a conduit for this resurrected MLK, and via a kind of Turing test, get a pretty good idea of whether you’re bullshitting, or simulating MLK so ridiculously well that it’s indistinguishable from a resurrected MLK.

            Ok. Lets say we get 10 MLK scholars who get to interview me and at least 8 of them have to conclude that my answers appear to them to be a plausible answers that the real MLK could have given to those questions. I don´t believe that we could find even one MLK scholar to sign up for such a ridiculous experiment, but assuming that we could find some, I actually think I could do a pretty decent job in such an experiment.
            So, if I pass this test as described, and you have to say which of those scenarios is more likely:
            A) I have read a lot of the available material that was written by him and about him and thought about this a lot in a comparable way that a christian thinks about WWJD type questions.
            B) MLKs, or at least his mind, is still around. He is apparently not detectable in any physical way, but he can interact with me in a way that amounts to a real and ongoing friendship.
            => Then you would take B?
            Please a yes or no answer, would you, or would you not, consider B to be more likely than A?

            Given that he rejects much of modern Christianity as bullshit†, where would he get WWJD from?

            Are you seriously asking this question? What do you think why there is so much diversity in contemporary christianity to begin with? Because people read the NT, think about the Jesus character a lot, and find that their idea of what Jesus would do or say doesn´t fit the teachings of their church – so they look for a different one, or start their own or become one of the countless maverick christians who reject organized religion completely and who are a dime a dozen on the internet (even if you just count those with their own websites / blogs). How could this be any more obvious?

            And even he has a lot of troubles communicating to Jesus, given his extremely hard upbringing. What he reports Jesus as saying to him is almost always profound; it almost always forces me to interpret the Bible in a new, better light than I did before. This ‘better’, in my view, is powerful evidence.

            So he does claim that Jesus talks to him, actually talking, he asks questions and Jesus actually answers?

            So I don’t think it’s entirely unreasonable to suppose that I had divine help. But you can always—and this is important, always—claim that there was no divine help.

            This is only true if you accept divine hiddenness – in a form that could not be any more extreme – as axiomatic.

            Jung reminds me of you! And it links well to the ‘evidence’ I discuss in the beginning of this comment. I don’t think you’ll be convinced of any of this apart from your own personal religious experience. And there is a big question: will you dismiss such an experience as ‘brain noise’?

            Dude, I have such “religious experiences”, nothing, absolutely nothing, that you describe about your “religious experiences” is in any way alien to me. The only difference between the two of us in this respect is, that I don´t pick any one of my christianese relationships and try to fool myself into believing that it is so deep and meaningful that it is essentially an actual relationship, which furthermore proves that the person I´m having the christianese relationship with is actually real instead of dead or fictional.

            Consider if non-communicating Christians from various parts of the globe are able to describe what Jesus is like, in much greater detail than what the Bible says, and all their accounts have shocking similarities, on details not found in the Bible.

            Spend a few hours on a fan-fiction forum. It´s not nearly as shocking as you think, it´s actually quite mundane. It would be shocking if this were true for ALL accounts, which is not the case for any fan-fiction community afaict but there are certainly much more similarities, relatively speaking, in all the fan-fiction accounts of Captain Kirk (for example) than there are similarities among ALL the different christian ideas about what Jesus is like (which is not surprising given that christians had a head start of several hundred years).

            This just isn’t true. Again, I point you toThe Computational Theory of the Laws of Nature. Your d) and e) are actually directly comparable, via the invariance theorem. With a)-c), the issue here is how to maximally compress them. The better our math and ability to detect patterns, the better our ability to compress.

            Your b) doesn’t make sense here; it doesn’t contain nearly the same type of information as any of the others (unless perhaps there are enough advertisements, but I shall exclude that). So let’s exclude it.

            Erm, no, you seem to have some misconceptions here. You seem to believe that “information” means something like what Cdesign proponentsists like Dembski mean when they use the word “information”. That has literally nothing whatsoever to do with “information” or “complexity” as it is understood in information theory. Neither “information” nor “complexity” have anything to do with “meaning” and there is no such thing as a “type of information” – a telephone book has an extremely high information content / extremely high complexity. And if you want to get a string of length N that has the maximum possible complexity for a string of that length – you have to produce a completely random string of length N, any pattern, everything that an intelligent reader could parse as being meaningful would reduce the complexity.

            A person’s DNA will tell you what proclivities (s)he has, which, taken together with his/her environment, will give incredible predictive power. But a given person’s DNA itself doesn’t contain enough to tell us about human nature, for we wouldn’t immediately know what variations are present, and what initial conditions you would need to put in a simulation that could evolve societies. The Bible, on the other hand, tells you a lot about human nature; one might even be able to construct a successful Turing test based on it!

            Yet your DNA is leaps and bounds ahead of the Bible in terms of complexity – which doesn´t mean anything because you are comparing apples and oranges.

            An AI which can successfully pass a Turing test will have (1) a history; (2) values; (3) desires; (4) a personality; (5) a web of knowledge. Let me know if I missed any major things. The Bible contains all of these as well! And so do people’s biographies. So I don’t buy your objection.

            I have no idea what you are addressing here.

            You’re sounding dangerously similar to Boghossian in his Manual

            No. I´m merely stating a matter of fact (which had nothing to do with Boghossian´s point by the way so i have no idea why you bring that up).

            Unless you want to argue that “not being able to do that” necessarily makes one less about to be (i) a good scientist; (ii) a good friend; (iii) a productive member of society, you are arguing on dogma, not evidence. Your argument is tantamount to “God doesn’t exist; anybody who claims he is and communicates to them needs to be locked up.” This is utterly awful! And yet, I’ll bet you believe it. I mean, it certainly sounds that way. Maybe I’m wrong, and maybe you just have never run into or heard of someone who claimed to have an English-relationship with Jesus, acted like it, and wasn’t insane? I suppose that’s what your last chunk of text says. But you also say “that would mean that you are insane”, which mitigates and makes me think you accept some dogma.

            When I meet people who claim to have a relationship with Jesus, and I ask them to clarify what they mean by that, they invariably answer something similar to your answers – they start describing a christianese relationship, not an actual one. I have never met a christian for whom that was any different. And the only cases I am aware of, of people claiming to have an actual relationship with Jesus involves the kind of cases I mentioned above. That´s just the way the it is.
            It also sounds to me as if you are deliberately misunderstanding my point re “would mean you are insane” – because I have been extremely clear about what I mean by that from the get go (remember that I´m merely rephrasing something I already said several other times before in this thread), and it doesn´t mean or imply that you are insane.

          • Luke Breuer

            So how exactly is SELO different from stochastic processes, deterministic processes or a mixture of both and why would those differences be relevant for a will?

            Go back to { pure randomness, natural laws }. The reason I said:

                 (1) spontaneous eruption
                 (2) of local order

            is

                 (1′) not an evolution from past state
                 (2′) not a statistically likely random fluctuation

            As far as I can figure, SELO is a necessary, but perhaps not sufficient, condition for a first-cause being to exist. I have no hope of providing a full-fledged theory of some new free will which could be published in a philosophy peer-reviewed journal all in one go, if at all. So I am starting slowly, and seeing where it goes. If people want to engage, they can; if not, that’s fine too.

            Just to clarify this, if I told you that I have an ongoing friendship with the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. – would you or would you not, be convinced that this cannot possibly be true? A direct yes or no answer would be very much appreciated.

            This could possibly be true. (You ask for a direct yes or no answer, and then ask a question in the negative, answering of which English is clumsy.)

            I will repeat: I do not have a need to go around denying that things happen, things for which I cannot explain and neither can any scientist currently explain. If someone said they got abducted by aliens, I wouldn’t insta-disbelieve. But if they wanted me to change how I act or think based on this abduction, I’d want to be convinced.

            => Then you would take B?
            Please a yes or no answer, would you, or would you not, consider B to be more likely than A?

            The more complex your representation of MLK beyond his extant writings, the more I would be convinced. I don’t do binary, I do Bayesian.

            How could this be any more obvious?

            I was referencing the WWJD movement; were you not?

            So he does claim that Jesus talks to him, actually talking, he asks questions and Jesus actually answers?

            Sometimes he gets answers, yes. What precise form the communication comes in, I do not know. But it is very often surprising when I hear it; it is surprising in the form of being better than what I could usually conceive of myself saying. And for this particular friend, sometimes I spend a lot of time figuring out what to say to him.

            This is only true if you accept divine hiddenness – in a form that could not be any more extreme – as axiomatic.

            I hold as axiomatic that God does not compel. Perhaps this form of DH follows from it; I’m not sure. Do note that I’m exploring a lot of new territory with you on this topic; it’s not like everything I say has been well-thought-out over a number of years. I’m putting a lot of things together for the first time, here. Never have I explored what it means to have a relationship with Jesus in as much detail.

            Dude, I have such “religious experiences”

            Do you dismiss them all as “brain noise”? No pattern to see, move along? If not, if there is a pattern, what is it?

            It would be shocking if this were true for ALL accounts

            This is awfully binary.

            Erm, no, you seem to have some misconceptions here.

            So it is not at all reasonable to represent an AI which could pass the Turing Test as having “(1) a history; (2) values; (3) desires; (4) a personality; (5) a web of knowledge”? Even though we can talk about these aspects of a human, we couldn’t talk about these aspects of an AI which has fooled us into thinking it is human? Seriously?

            No. I´m merely stating a matter of fact

            Burden of proof?

            It also sounds to me as if you are deliberately misunderstanding my point re “would mean you are insane” – because I have been extremely clear about what I mean by that from the get go (remember that I´m merely rephrasing something I already said several other times before in this thread), and it doesn´t mean or imply that you are insane.

            Accusing someone of insanity is about the worst thing that an atheist can do. But your definition of insanity does not at all imply that this particular type of insanity “necessarily makes one less about to be (i) a good scientist; (ii) a good friend; (iii) a productive member of society”. It begs the very use of the term ‘insanity’. It’s as if you are defining the term ‘insanity’ in approximately the same way a religious person defines ‘heretic': not one of us and should be made to go away.

            In all this, it should be obvious that a human–God relationship wouldn’t be identical to a human–human relationship. But you want to claim that the only alternative to a human–human relationship is a human–fictional/dead person relationship. If so, then it is a false dichotomy. It should be obvious that the human–God relationship is only analogous to human–human relationships. Maybe I should have made this clear earlier. :-(

          • Andy_Schueler

            Go back to { pure randomness, natural laws }. The reason I said:

            (1) spontaneous eruption
            (2) of local order

            is

            (1′) not an evolution from past state
            (2′) not a statistically likely random fluctuation

            What does that mean? So SELO is stuff that doesn´t happen for a reason, and also doesn´t happen for no reason and also doesn´t happen for anything in between – what is that even supposed to mean?

            This could possibly be true.

            Again. Not what I asked you. Of course it could possibly be true. You could “possibly” be Santa Clause – the answer to “could x possibly be true” is yes, by definition, as long as x is not logically self-refuting.
            My question was if you would consider it, if you would not be convinced that this cannot be true.

            The more complex your representation of MLK beyond his extant writings, the more I would be convinced. I don’t do binary, I do Bayesian.

            And where do you see the logical connection between “representation gets more complex” => “likelihood of dead person interacting in some magical way with me gets higher”?
            Also, I didn´t phrase this in a binary way – I gave you a specific example, 8 out of 10 MLK scholars have to rate my answers as something that sounds to them like plausible answers that the real MLK could have given. Would this be sufficient for you to consider B more likely than A, if not, what do you require?

            I was referencing the WWJD movement; were you not?

            No. I meant exactly what I wrote.

            Sometimes he gets answers, yes. What precise form the communication comes in, I do not know.

            You do know if you are being honest to yourself. He gets them in the exact same way as you get these “answers”, he´s just better / more experienced at this than you are.

            Do you dismiss them all as “brain noise”?

            I have no idea what brain noise is supposed to be.

            No pattern to see, move along? If not, if there is a pattern, what is it?

            The more time I devote to reading and thinking about a person, the deeper my christianese relationship with said person becomes – that works for everyone with every dead or fictional person, it only depends on how much time and effort you spend on it.

            It would be shocking if this were true for ALL accounts

            This is awfully binary.

            I´m positively certain that you know what my point was and since you ignore it, I take it that you cannot address it. That´s fine.

            So it is not at all reasonable to represent an AI which could pass the Turing Test as having “(1) a history; (2) values; (3) desires; (4) a personality; (5) a web of knowledge”? Even though we can talk about these aspects of a human, we couldn’t talk about these aspects of an AI which has fooled us into thinking it is human? Seriously?

            This cannot be a response to what you quoted, but I have no idea what else this could possibly refer to.

            Burden of proof?

            For what?

            Accusing someone of insanity is about the worst thing that an atheist can do.

            I didn´t accuse anyone of being insane, I said that there are incredibly few people who claim to have a relationship with a God and who describe it as an ACTUAL relationship instead of a christianese one – and that all instances I am aware of, of people describing such an actual relationship with God, fall into a handful of categories, and among those categories are people who pleaded insanity in court or who actually were institutionalized for schizophrenia or something comparable.

            But your definition of insanity

            I´m not using “my definition” of insanity.

            In all this, it should be obvious that a human–God relationship wouldn’t beidentical to a human–human relationship. But you want to claim that the only alternative to a human–human relationship is a human–fictional/dead person relationship. If so, then it is a false dichotomy. It should be obvious that the human–God relationship is only analogous to human–human relationships.

            An actual person interacts with an actual person (actual relationship) vs. an actual person “interacts” with his mental conception of another “person” (christianese relationship).
            This is binary, there is no “gulf” between the two, either there is a second actual person or there is not. And we can tell both situations apart – with 100% accuracy.

          • Luke Breuer

            What does that mean? So SELO is stuff that doesn´t happen for a reason, and also doesn´t happen for no reason and also doesn´t happen for anything in between – what is that even supposed to mean?

            That’s my question, no stealing! But seriously, it seems like a physically possible event—we could observe it. Whether or not it happens is probably something we cannot currently observe, but maybe we could at some point. I think it throws a wrench into CFW. Does it allow for something closer to LFW? I’m not yet sure. I have been reading some commentary on Aristotle in the last day or three that might match up with it, but my guess is you’d dismiss it as “theospeak” or something, so unless you request, I won’t go back and find it and quote it.

            Again. Not what I asked you.

            You asked, “would you or would you not, be convinced that this cannot possibly be true?” So I can either:

                 (1) be convinced that this can be possibly true, or
                 (2) be convinced that this cannot be possibly true

            I would go with (1). Is this a better answer? It seems pretty similar to “This could possibly be true.” If you want a yes-or-no answer instead of the above, please re-ask your question not in a negative; answers to question in the negative in English are confusing. They literally can be taken either way a lot of the time.

            My question was if you would consider it, if you would not be convinced that this cannot be true.

            No, that wasn’t your question. Here, bold emphasis added:

            Just to clarify this, if I told you that I have an ongoing friendship with the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. – would you or would you not, be convinced that this cannot possibly be true? A direct yes or no answer would be very much appreciated.

            So try again?

            And where do you see the logical connection between “representation gets more complex” => “likelihood of dead person interacting in some magical way with me gets higher”?

            Going back:

            If you claimed to know a resurrected MLK, then a learned MLK scholar could challenge you to be a conduit for this resurrected MLK, and via a kind of Turing test, get a pretty good idea of whether you’re bullshitting, or simulating MLK so ridiculously well that it’s indistinguishable from a resurrected MLK.

            I then elaborated:

            The more complex your representation of MLK beyond his extant writings, the more I would be convinced. I don’t do binary, I do Bayesian.

            I meant these to go together. That is, the scholars would say that you sound like MLK while you go “beyond his extant writings”, to higher and higher levels of complexity. Maybe this was clear, maybe it was not, but I just wanted to verify.

            Let’s pause for a moment. Suppose you really do convince me that there is high probability you are talking to a resurrected MLK. How would my being thusly convinced change how I live? This is a very important question, because if you cannot establish that this

            necessarily makes one less about to be (i) a good scientist; (ii) a good friend; (iii) a productive member of society, you are arguing on dogma, not evidence.

            No. I meant exactly what I wrote.

            Honestly, if you’re going to pull that shit, we’re done. Communication isn’t perfect, and if you’re going to treat it like it is and blame me 100% for misinterpretation, I don’t want to play. It’s a tedious, boring game.

            The more time I devote

            You didn’t answer my questions. We can leave aside “brain noise” for now.

            I´m positively certain that you know what my point was and since you ignore it, I take it that you cannot address it. That´s fine.

            Ahh, more assumption that communication between two people with vastly different starting points is better than it is. Carry on in your erroneous simulation of me; there’s little I can do about it at this point. While I have hopes for discovering even more things in this interchange, I do have plenty of books I could be reading, instead. It’s always a struggle whether to comment more or read more books. Descartes’ Error is pretty neat.

            For what?

            This claim:

            I will never mistake a christianese relationship for an actual one or the other way around. Every human being with a grip on reality is able to do that with 100% accuracy, not being able to do that would mean that you are insane – from a legal and from a clinical perspective.

            You seem to know of e.g. a DSM-5 section in mind, as well as legal codes. Care you cite & quote them?

            An actual person interacts with an actual person (actual relationship) vs. an actual person “interacts” with his mental conception of another “person” (christianese relationship).

            I’m actually not sure that human–human relationships avoid interacting with one’s mental conception of the other person. Indeed, I saw a psychologist for about half a year, and he taught me the following technique:

            Start a dialogue with the other person in your head. Say something, and then, without postprocessing, write down what your brain simulates the other person saying. Then respond, writing that down. Iterate. See how the conversation plays out.

            You see, I had been having trouble emotionally connecting to other human beings. Once I started using the above technique, whole new vistas opened up. I had been making a fundamental error, of assuming other people were being as rational as they possibly could, as I had learned to do while growing up and spending many hours talking to highly critical and often pretty intelligent atheists and skeptics, mostly online. When I started simulating other people without this postprocessing step, it turned out that I could understand them much better!

            As a result, I suspect that we do a lot of modeling of the other person in our head in English-relationships. A tremendous amount of modeling. And if we don’t, I think we tend to be worse at properly understanding the other person. Now, I only have my own experience on this so if I were challenged, I’d try and find out whether there is support for this idea out there. Maybe Descartes’ Error even gets at it.

            On the other hand, it seems intuitively obvious that the better you get to know someone, the more sophisticated your mental concept of him/her becomes. This is one reason there is some truth to telling folks who have just lost a loved one: he/she still lives inside of you. That is, the mental concept still exists, although it will no longer get updated by anything other than remnants of the person. Unless they are resurrected, of course.

            And therefore, I am starting to think that an English-relationship that is in any way deep, is a superset of whatever a Christianese-relationship is. Do you disagree? Do you think there is disjointness?

          • Andy_Schueler

            It is amazing how communication between us can on the one hand be as simple as:
            “Andy: I totally acknowledge that you COULD have one, but you don´t have one – you simply don´t.Luke: Remind me why you’re so confident of this?
            Andy: For the same reasons you have for being certain that I don´t have an actual relationship with MLK or Atticus Finch.
            Luke: My reason is that they’re dead.”

            but can also devolve into endless beating around the bush as soon as a conclusion that is inconvenient for you draws near. It seems to be extremely important for you to consider non-believers as closed minded in some way and the alternative that they are no more and no less closed minded than you are, but you are applying a double standard to Jesus that you would consider to be completely irrational in any other context, is simply not acceptable.
            Yes, communication is not perfect, but it is more than a little suspicious that it works not perfectly but still just fine, until a conclusion that you don´t like draws near.
            You seem to be a nice guy and all, but I think it´s better if we call it quits here.

          • Luke Breuer

            but can also devolve into endless beating around the bush as soon as a conclusion that is inconvenient for you draws near.

            Well, when you keep insisting that God doesn’t exist, it’s difficult to actually make any points. Obviously I cannot have a relationship with Jesus if he’s dead. Fortunately, Christians have held through the last two millennia that he no longer dead. What I describe you as doing here is what you keep doing, again and again and again and again:

            You’ve predicated this entire discussion on you not having actual contact with Barak Obama; you’ve cooked into it the precondition that makes your relationship a Christianese one instead of an English one. Let’s remove that; let’s say that I don’t know whether or not you hare in actual contact. That will make the situation analagous.

            You keep presupposing that Jesus is dead. Then you asking confusing in-the-negative questions, with which the English language does not deal well:

            Just to clarify this, if I told you that I have an ongoing friendship with the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. – would you or would you not, be convinced that this cannot possibly be true? A direct yes or no answer would be very much appreciated.

            Seriously, how can one answer that with “yes” or “no”? And then you misremember what you asked:

            Again. Not what I asked you. Of course it could possibly be true. You could “possibly” be Santa Clause – the answer to “could x possibly be true” is yes, by definition, as long as x is not logically self-refuting.

            My question was if you would consider it, if you would not be convinced that this cannot be true.

            That simply is not what you asked me! If you cannot remember what you asked, and how words like ‘possibly’ are often important, then there will be a lot of “beating around the bush”, as I try to be technically correct in ways I see as important and not nit-picking. You just keep baking into the discussion that Jesus doesn’t exist (I really cannot see it as any other way; maybe it’s subliminal and you don’t see it), and then asking me how I would ‘know’ I am having an English-relationship with a dead being.

            At this point, I see only two lines of evidence that could possibly convince you that Jesus exists and wants a relationship with you:

            1. Some religious experiences that you don’t explain away, however you do it. I will note that you refused to explain how you do it, or whether you even entirely explain them away. How you cannot understand the relationship between ‘hallucination’ and ‘brain noise’ is beyond me, but perhaps not important.

            2. A stable utopia which is (i) heterogeneous; (ii) actively connected to the world. I’m pretty sure it was you who noted a while ago that the negation of (i) and (ii) holds for all stable utopias you know about.

            Interestingly enough, Isaiah 2 predicts something like 2., where people will flock to it to learn how they do their thing:

            It shall come to pass in the latter days
                that the mountain of the house of the LORD
            shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
                and shall be lifted up above the hills;
            and all the nations shall flow to it,
                and many peoples shall come, and say:
            “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
                to the house of the God of Jacob,
            that he may teach us his ways
                and that we may walk in his paths.”
            For out of Zion shall go the law,
                and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
            He shall judge between the nations,
                and shall decide disputes for many peoples;
            and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
                and their spears into pruning hooks;
            nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
                neither shall they learn war anymore.

            Maybe that would convince you, if it happens. I’d like to be part of making it happen (or at least part of making 2. happen).

          • Andy_Schueler

            Well, when you keep insisting that God doesn’t exist, it’s difficult to actually make any points. Obviously I cannot have a relationship with Jesus if he’s dead.

            As I keep pointing out – I can grant you that Yahweh exists and resurrected Jesus, it wouldn´t turn your christianese relationship into an actual one.
            The main point I am trying to make here is a completely different one – that you employ a line of reasoning that is completely irrational and that you yourself would reject as soon as we would substitute “Jesus” by anyone else.

            You’ve predicated this entire discussion on you not having actual contact with Barak Obama; you’ve cooked into it the precondition that makes your relationship a Christianese one instead of an English one. Let’s remove that; let’s say that I don’t know whether or not you hare in actual contact. That will make the situation analagous.

            Wanna make it analogous? Cool. Then we´ll keep everything in the hypothetical scenario as it is – no interaction between me and Obama what-so-ever, but hey, maybe Obama magically inserts thoughts into my head? That is no interaction because it is completely one-sided, but magic is awesome, so we still count it. And I have some really good ideas about what Obama would want to do in a certain situation after all, which is obviously totally evidence for Obama magically inserting thoughts into my head!
            There, completely analogous – happy now?

            You keep presupposing that Jesus is dead.

            No.

            Andy: My question was if you would consider it, if you would not be convinced that this cannot be true.

            Luke: That simply is not what you asked me!

            This was my question:
            “would you or would you not, be convinced that this cannot possibly be true?”
            => And, clumsy double negative or not, you know precisely what it means – it´s not that difficult to parse a double negative and you are everything but stupid. And you know that you cannot honestly answer this without admitting your double standard.
            That´s cool – no answer is an answer.

            You just keep baking into the discussion that Jesus doesn’t exist (I really cannot see it as any other way; maybe it’s subliminal and you don’t see it), and then asking me how I would ‘know’ I am having an English-relationship with a dead being.

            That is precisely what I do NOT do – I ask you about what your relationship with Jesus entails, and then point out to you that:
            a) What you describe is a christianese relationship, not an actual one.
            b) If you want to count that as an actual relationship, then I would have several actual relationships with people that are dead or fictional – and so would pretty much everyone else who is old enough and knows how to read.

            At this point, I see only two lines of evidence that could possibly convince you that Jesus exists and wants a relationship with you

            If I would have been seperated from my biological mother at a very young age, and she wanted to meet me and have a relationship with me – I think the number of possible “lines of evidence” that she could use to convince me that she actually exists and would like to have a relationship with me are pretty much innumerable, the number of possible lines of evidence that would actually convince me that she is my mother pales in comparison but there would still be quite a lot.
            Again, you accept a form of divine hiddenness that could not be any more extreme – there is no, absolutely no line of evidence that would convince me that your Jesus is real because you have ruled out the possible existence of any evidence that could support this from the get go.

            1. Some religious experiences that you don’t explain away, however you do it. I will note that you refused to explain how you do it, or whether you even entirely explain them away.

            Note that I used scare-quotes around “religious experiences”. That is because my christianese relationships are completely analogous to yours, but they don´t involve alleged Gods and I will not start believing that Mark Twain, MLK or anyone else has been resurrected from the dead and is some kind of God because I have a christianese relationship with them. Hence “religious experiences” in scare-quotes, they are completely analogous to what you would call your religious experiences, you just have to substitute “Jesus” by someone else.

            2. A stable utopia which is (i) heterogeneous; (ii) actively connected to the world. I’m pretty sure it was you who noted a while ago that the negation of (i) and (ii) holds for all stable utopias you know about.

            No what you recall was me making a different point. And a stable utopia would for me be evidence for the fact that humans are able to build a stable utopia.

          • Luke Breuer

            As I keep pointing out – I can grant you that Yahweh exists and resurrected Jesus, it wouldn´t turn your christianese relationship into an actual one.

            I’m stuck at Scylla and Charybdis with you:

            1. either Jesus is no longer alive,
            2. or maybe he does but I don’t have an English-relationship with him
            3. because if I did, I could introduce him to you

            Now I’ve tackled 3., and argued that there is a way you could convince me that you are in contact with a resurrected MLK. You seem to have disliked that so much that it’s almost as if you’ve ignored it. So now, we just bat between 1. and 2. When I say you don’t know 1., you reply that you never asserted 1., but 2. is still true. When I say that you don’t know 2., you reply that you didn’t claim this, but 1. is true. At this point, I don’t know what to say.

            The main point I am trying to make here is a completely different one – that you employ a line of reasoning that is completely irrational and that you yourself would reject as soon as we would substitute “Jesus” by anyone else.

            Except that this was falsified by the MLK example.

            Then we´ll keep everything in the hypothetical scenario as it is – no interaction between me and Obama what-so-ever, but hey, maybe Obama magically inserts thoughts into my head?

            Now we’re back at 2.

            That is no interaction because it is completely one-sided,

            You’re just making bare assertions. I contest them. You’re claiming knowledge you do not have: 1., 2., and/or 3.

            There, completely analogous – happy now?

            No, you keep baking your conclusion into the premises.

            You keep presupposing that Jesus is dead.

            No.

            Correction: you keep presupposing 1., 2., and/or 3. Can you form an argument that does not presuppose any of those?

            And, clumsy double negative or not, you know precisely what it means – it´s not that difficult to parse a double negative and you are everything but stupid.

            Then I am stupid; why are you continuing to talk to me? Really, if your purpose is anything other than to feel good about yourself, given that I’m obviously not going to get rectified out of said stupidity by you, why do you continue to talk to me?

            a) What you describe is a christianese relationship, not an actual one.

            I am convinced that you’ve cherry-picked what I said to maintain this. Will it at all be profitable for me to go back through everything I’ve said on the matter? I’m a little skeptical of that, but if you think it would, I am interested enough in this topic to do it.

            Again, you accept a form of divine hiddenness that could not be any more extreme

            Perhaps I do, but I am forced to by asserting a being who does not compel, and who gives us great latitude in what beliefs we hold and how we try and shape the world. You have yet to show good reason to question any of these, which means that this form of DH may be entailed by reasonable presuppositions.

            there is no, absolutely no line of evidence that would convince me that your Jesus is real because you have ruled out the possible existence of any evidence that could support this from the get go.

            I don’t know if I’ve said this to you, but I’ve been consistently holding that Jesus merely showing himself to you would not in any way cause you to then want what he wants. Given that this is what he values (after all, he’s the blueprint for us, and knows what’s best for us), what is the point of him showing up to you? Even the demons believe that God is one, and tremble. Lucifer went to heaven’s best divinity school and we see how he turned out.

            I hope I do see you in heaven. I hope you pursue ‘the good’ in a New Covenant fashion (desiring ‘the good’ from your innermost being, not doing it because someone said so—down with DCT). Then, if you meet Jesus after you die, you can say, “Yo dude, let’s hang out for eternity.” I worry that some people, should they meet Jesus, will tell him to beat it. Dostoyevsky captured this brilliantly in his The Grand Inquisitor; it seem very realistic. And the person who fully rejected Jesus was highly religious, not a skeptical atheist.

            I do worry that you care more about relationships being between two entities you can call “distinct minds”, over and above relationships seeming to make both parties ‘better’. At least it seems this way, based on how you’ve handled the terms. It seems to me that you aren’t really respecting the complexities of the problem of other minds, giving ontology precedence over phenomenology, even though we can be more certain of the latter.

            I honestly don’t worry about Jesus getting information to you in ways other than directly. If you’re open to becoming more like him, I think you’ll get the relevant information. I believe God gives people maximal chances to become more Christlike, without overriding their will in the process. Fundamentally, we get to choose what we consider good and what we consider evil, and this is the most fundamental choice we can possibly make. You’re welcome to criticize my inability to precisely describe how this choice is made freely; I’m happy with that as a mysterious bit, a “little miracle”. Until someone shows me how believing that is ‘bad’, by something other than some random dogmatic stance that lets them pretend that they understand reality better than they do, I’ll keep believing that.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Now I’ve tackled 3., and argued that there is a way you could convince me that you are in contact with a resurrected MLK.

            Bullshit. I asked you if a specific experiment would lead you to conclude that this is the more likely scenario and you again refused to answer a simple question because “you don´t do binary, you do bayesian” – cool, that´s totally not beating around the bush to avoid having to answer an inconvenient question.
            So again, this time even more specific, if 10 MLK scholars ask me 10 questions each and I can come up with answers to those, which at least 8 out of the 10 scholars consider to be plausible answers that MLK could have given – would that convince you that the scenario that MLKs mind is still around and has an actual relationship with me, is more likely than any alternative reason for me being able to come up with such answers? (and by “more likely” I don´t care HOW likely exactly – simple “more likely” in the sense of you considering it to be more likely than any alternative reason). Yes or no.

            You seem to have disliked that so much that it’s almost as if you’ve ignored it.

            No. I got bored of you beating around the bush.

            So now, we just bat between 1. and 2. When I say you don’t know 1., you reply that you never asserted 1., but 2. is still true. When I say that you don’t know 2., you reply that you didn’t claim this, but 1. is true. At this point, I don’t know what to say.

            Again, BULLSHIT. I always maintained 2 and never asserted 1.

            Now we’re back at 2.

            We´ve never been not at 2.

            You’re just making bare assertions. I contest them. You’re claiming knowledge you do not have: 1., 2., and/or 3.

            I cannot read your mind, if the way you describe your relationship with Jesus is accurate, then 2 follows.

            Correction: you keep presupposing 1., 2., and/or 3. Can you form an argument that does not presuppose any of those?

            I´m not presupposing anything. If I would presuppose 2, I never would have asked you what your relationship with Jesus entails to begin with because I already knew anyway, but I did ask you – and 2 follows from your description of it.

            Then I am stupid; why are you continuing to talk to me? Really, if your purpose is anything other than to feel good about yourself, given that I’m obviously not going to get rectified out of said stupidity by you, why do you continue to talk to me?

            I would not have guessed that you are that desperate to avoid this question. So much for “Except that this was falsified by the MLK example” – with this, you have established pretty much the exact opposite of that.

            I am convinced that you’ve cherry-picked what I said to maintain this.[1] Will it at all be profitable for me to go back through everything I’ve said on the matter?[2]

            1. Of course you are.
            2. How am I supposed to know that?

            Perhaps I do, but I am forced to by asserting a being who does not compel

            Irrelevant. To stay in the example with my biological mother being seperated from me at a very young age – if the possible “lines of evidence” that she could use to convince me that she actually exists and would like to have a relationship with me, but which do “compel” me to do something, then the number of possible lines of evidence is still innumerable.

            , and who gives us great latitude in what beliefs we hold and how we try and shape the world. You have yet to show good reason to question any of these, which means that this form of DH may be entailed by reasonable presuppositions.

            I don´t have to question your presuppositions and I don´t care if they are reasonable or not – what they mean in practice is that there can be no evidence for your God because you´ve ruled it all out from the get go. Whether your God exists or not, belief in him cannot possibly be warranted based on your presuppositions.

            I don’t know if I’ve said this to you, but I’ve been consistently holding that Jesus merely showing himself to you would not in any way cause you to then want what he wants. Given that this is what he values (after all, he’s the blueprint for us, and knows what’s best for us), what is the point of him showing up to you?

            If he wants me to “want what he wants” – he could start by telling me what it is he wants and why he wants that. I dunno, that kind of seems to be a rather obvious first step.

            Then, if you meet Jesus after you die,

            So, meeting Jesus now is impossible because Jesus “doesn´t compel”, but you will meet Jesus when you die, and then it will not count as “compel”, and you are also totally not making this up as you go along, got it.

            I do worry that you care more about relationships being between two entities you can call “distinct minds”, over

            I never talked about what I care about, I talked about what is.

            I honestly don’t worry about Jesus getting information to you in ways other than directly. If you’re open to becoming more like him, I think you’ll get the relevant information.

            Empirically false. Even if Jesus is real – this would still be false. No matter how “relevant” the information is, you will always find many mutually incompatible answers that all have millions of christians who believe in them.
            Whether there is a place where some people will be tormented for eternity and if so, how and if this place can be avoided, is something that most christians would consider to be at least somewhat relevant – yet there is a vast diversity of completely different answers to that. There are only two possibilities here – either you say that only among the christians that subscribe to one of those answers (which is the right one) will you find people who genuinely believe and want to “follow Jesus” or you say that there simply is no such thing as “Jesus giving them relevant information” or “holy spirit guiding them” or whatever.

            Fundamentally, we get to choose what we consider good and what we consider evil, and this is the most fundamental choice we can possibly make.

            Obviously, trivially and spectacularly false. Try to choose to consider gratuitous violence to be good. What, you don´t want to choose that? Then choose to want to do it – you don´t have to act on it, just do it for a a few seconds and then make the relevant choices to go back to your prior beliefs.

            Until someone shows me how believing that is ‘bad’

            I recall you saying something along the line that believing falsehoods is always bad.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            Because at some point, the sheer number of unwarranted assumptions becomes simply overwhelming. When you design a metaphor that assumes not only that there is a God, but also that plenty of things are actually known about that God, then I think it is necessary to remind you that you actually haven´t established any of that. Granting you that there is a God for the sake of the argument and granting you some vague qualities about him also for the sake of the argument, I can deal with – but when you then start pretending to have detailed knowledge of particularities re Gods desires, actions and alleged revelations – then you have literally brought in an entire truckload of assumptions and don´t even try to demonstrate that any one of them is actually true.

            This is interesting because this is precisely what Luke often criticises us for doing – making assumptions on the character or ontology of his God, and then moving sideways when we do. In reality, he does exactly the same.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            I think Luke is espousing ignosticism!

          • Luke Breuer

            Perhaps; I think the “no idols” commandment espouses something that could probably be called ‘ignosticism’!

        • Mike

          “The burden of proof is really on you…”

          How and why is this the case? You’re the one with the extraordinary claims, now it’s time for some extraordinary evidence to support it. It’s not our job to refute you, because you’ve only presented conjecture. Present some evidence to support ANY of your claims, then it’ll be modern science’s job to validate/rebuke it.

          • Luke Breuer

            There are many, at least slightly different conceptions of Christianity ⇒ ??? Or, there are several major strands of Christianity with many minor differences ⇒ ???

            I refuse to play the game where other people’s positive claims don’t need support but mine do. I need provide exactly zero evidence that God exists to discuss the blog topic; it is an entirely logic-based argument that Jonathan was making. I know atheists and skeptics just love to ask for evidence in every place possible, but it isn’t appropriate for this blog post. It’s in the very title: “incoherence”.

        • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

          I have the God of the Bible, and the Bible which claims things, though not a lot, mind, of Satan.

          But past that, I make claims of a God and of Satan that a good many Christians DO believe, if not you. Not every post is aimed at you! ;)

          • Luke Breuer

            Ehh, I have no beefs with you, just with people who feel the need to immediately bring up (i) variety in religious belief; (ii) a demand for evidence of God’s existence, in virtually every place they can.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            Okey dokey!

    • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

      What do you mean, the is-ought gap, in this context?

      • Luke Breuer

        Is–ought gap, or naturalistic fallacy. The idea that having all the knowledge about what is will not necessarily change how one choose to act, given that is does not imply ought.

        • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

          I will reply to this with a blog post.

          • Luke Breuer

            Cool! It was actually an atheist who pointed out that Lucifer had perfect knowledge, or at least no false knowledge, and still rejected God in favor of his own thing. Whether or not this is sensical is of course something which can be debated. :-)

            One possibly complicating factor for your blog post is if complete knowledge is only possible by infinite minds, of which Christians hold there is only one. A finite mind can only hold approximations of capital-T Truth. These approximations can be made better and better (see: science), and we seem particularly designed (heh) to gain incredible joy from the “better and better” process, at least when it isn’t too painful.

          • Void L. Walker

            Luke, this is random as FUCK but do you play video games at all? (randomness factor:33.4)

          • Luke Breuer

            I try not to, but I do love SMAC, and spun it up for a few days a few weeks ago. I get addicted too easily. :-(

          • Void L. Walker

            I do, too. I spent 300 hours on Skyrim. I’m still going through withdrawal.

          • Luke Breuer

            I am thankful my desktop’s graphics card is not good enough for Skyrim. I play it once in a while with my brother-in-law over the holidays.

          • Void L. Walker

            To say it’s life consuming would be the understatement of the century. Quests come in far faster than you can complete them, incredible npc A.I and behavior, and dragons. DRAGONS.

  • f_galton

    Satan provides a logical explanation for his motives in Paradise Lost “Doctrin which we would know whence learnt: who saw/ When this creation was? rememberst thou/ Thy making, while the Maker gave thee being?/ We know no time when we were not as now;/ Know none before us, self-begot, self-rais’d/ By our own quick’ning power.”

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  • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker